South and Southeast Asian Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The major is a flexible, interdisciplinary program offering opportunities for both wide, comparative study of South and Southeast Asian cultures, literature, religion, and history. The department teaches the following 13 languages: Bengali, Burmese, Filipino, Hindi, Indonesian, Khmer, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Declaring the Major

There are prerequisites to declaring the major: one semester of language work with a grade of B or higher AND one completed lower division/gateway course (SASIAN 1A, SASIAN 1B, SEASIAN 10A or SEASIAN 10B) with a grade of C or higher.

Honors Program

To be eligible for admission to the honors program, a student must attain a 3.5 grade- point average or higher in courses completed in the major, and a 3.3 grade-point average in all courses completed at the University. An honors thesis is required, as is registration in an SSEASN H195 course based on the student's area of study. Students who wish to participate must choose a thesis topic in consultation with their major advisor and apply for admission to the program through the departmental office no later than the first week of spring semester in their senior year.

Minor Program

Requirements:  One gateway course from SASIAN 1ASASIAN 1BSEASIAN 10A or SEASIAN 10B

 AND five additional letter-graded upper-division courses (20 units) with a 2.0 minimum GPA

  • Only one course from outside the department will be accepted
  • No more than two upper division language courses will be accepted

For further information regarding how to declare the minor, please contact the department.

Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. A maximum of one course may be taken P/NP
  2. A maximum of two courses from other departments may be counted toward the major
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements
  4. For double majors, no more than two upper division courses may be used in common to fulfill requirements in both majors.

For information regarding residency requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Major Requirements: South and Southeast Asian Studies

Four Semesters of Language Work
Choose from: Bengali, Burmese, Filipino, Hindi, Indonesian, Khmer, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
Lower Division
Choose two of the following courses: 1
SASIAN 1AIntroduction to the Civilization of Early India4
SASIAN 1BIntroduction to the Civilization of Medieval and Modern India4
SEASIAN 10AIntroduction to the Civilization of Southeast Asia4
SEASIAN 10BIntroduction to the Civilization of Southeast Asia4
Upper Division
At least 26 units for a letter grade that include intermediate/second-year level of any supported language and additional courses from 110 and above that include at least one course from "Religion & History" and at least one course from "Literature" 2

It is possible to create a mixed South/Southeast Asian combination; please see an undergraduate faculty adviser to discuss this possibility.

Minor Requirements

Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but they are not noted on diplomas.

General Guidelines

  1. All minors must be declared no later than one semester before a student's Expected Graduation Term (EGT). If the semester before EGT is fall or spring, the deadline is the last day of RRR week. If the semester before EGT is summer, the deadline is the final Friday of Summer Sessions. To declare a minor, contact the department advisor for information on requirements, and the declaration process.
  2. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  3. A minimum of three of the upper division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  4. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  5. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.
  6. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  7. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. Students who cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time should see a College of Letters & Science adviser.
  8. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)
  9. Only one course from outside the department will be accepted toward the minor

  10.  No more than two upper division language courses can count toward the minor


Lower Division
Choose one course from the following:
SASIAN 1AIntroduction to the Civilization of Early India4
SASIAN 1BIntroduction to the Civilization of Medieval and Modern India4
SEASIAN 10AIntroduction to the Civilization of Southeast Asia4
SEASIAN 10BIntroduction to the Civilization of Southeast Asia4
Upper Division
Select five upper division courses from the offerings of the department.

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses in sequential order by the end of their fourth semester.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals


The mission of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies is to enable students to learn about the cultures and civilizations of South and Southeast Asia. The department teaches 13 languages and is an indispensable resource for programs in many other departments and areas.

For undergraduate majors, the department stresses an interdisciplinary approach and expects students to specialize in one of three areas—literature, religion, or cultural history. To this end, there are two tracks for majors—one that emphasizes the study of civilization and does not require language and one that requires the students to do four semesters of language work in addition to more general studies. UC Berkeley has an extraordinary number of experts in many areas of South and Southeast Asian Studies, and students are encouraged to take advantage of relevant courses in departments such as history, music, political science, ethnic studies, art history, linguistics, gender and women’s studies, and English. Qualified undergraduates are also encouraged to participate in graduate seminars.

Learning Goals for the Major

There are two tracks in the South and Southeast Asian Studies major—one that emphasizes the study of civilization and does not require language, and one that requires the students to do four semesters of language work in addition to more general studies. Within each track, students specialize in an area (South or Southeast Asia).

Goals for the Language Track

  1. Students should have mastered the grammar (included complex grammatical features) of at least one South and Southeast Asian language (Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu for South Asia and Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Khmer for Southeast). They should be able to read stories, newspapers, and the like in the modern language in which they specialize.
  2. They should be able to speak and get about using the language (if relevant) and to write simple prose in the modern language.
  3. For classic languages such as Sanskrit, students should have the basic facility in reading a variety of different genres in the original, and they should be comfortable using standard resource materials such as dictionaries, traditional grammars, and online resources. They are also expected to be able to engage critically with the pertinent secondary sources relevant to the texts being read.
  4. They should have a sound knowledge of one culture or area of South or Southeast Asia.
  5. They should have a broad general acquaintance with either South or Southeast Asia including a good knowledge of cultural history, literature, and/or religion.

Goals for the Civilization Track

  1. Students should have a thorough understanding of the histories and culture of either South or Southeast Asia.
  2. In lieu of acquiring detailed knowledge of one of the cultural/linguistic areas of South or Southeast Asia, they are expected to deepen their mastery of cultural history or religion of South or Southeast Asia.
  3. They should specialize in a particular national tradition and/or in a particular approach to the region (historical, literary, art, performative).

Major Map

Major Maps help undergraduate students discover academic, co-curricular, and discovery opportunities at UC Berkeley based on intended major or field of interest. Developed by the Division of Undergraduate Education in collaboration with academic departments, these experience maps will help you:

  • Explore your major and gain a better understanding of your field of study

  • Connect with people and programs that inspire and sustain your creativity, drive, curiosity and success

  • Discover opportunities for independent inquiry, enterprise, and creative expression

  • Engage locally and globally to broaden your perspectives and change the world

  • Reflect on your academic career and prepare for life after Berkeley

Use the major map below as a guide to planning your undergraduate journey and designing your own unique Berkeley experience.

View the South and Southeast Asian Studies Major Map PDF.


Languages and Culture:


South and Southeast Asian Studies

Southeast Asian Studies

South Asian Studies















Faculty and Instructors

* Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Lisandro Claudio, Assistant Professor. History of non-Western liberalism, using the Philippines as a case study .

Lawrence Cohen, Professor. Social cultural anthropology, medical and psychiatric anthropology, critical gerontology, lesbian and gay studies, feminist and queer theory.
Research Profile

Jacob Dalton, Professor. Religion, ritual, Tibet, Buddhism, Tantra, Dunhuang.
Research Profile

Penelope S. C. Edwards, Associate Professor. Cambodian cinema, Chinese cinema in Southeast Asia, Moveable Easts, constructions of Buddhism in France and Empire.
Research Profile

* Munis D. Faruqui, Associate Professor. Mughal India, Delhi Sultanate, Islam in South Asia/India, Urdu.
Research Profile

* Robert P. Goldman, Professor. Literary theory, South and Southeast Asian studies, Sanskrit literature, Indian epic studies, and psychoanalytically oriented cultural studies.
Research Profile

Vasugi Kailasam, Assistant Professor. Global Tamil literature, postcolonial literature and filmic and digital cultures of contemporary South Asia and its diasporas, narrative forms and its connections to South Asian cultural identity formations, race and ethnic politics. .
Research Profile

Rahul Parson, Assistant Professor. Hindi Literature and Culture.

Sugata Ray, Associate Professor. Climate change, early modern, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, art history, environment, globalization, ecology, Eco Art History, global art history.
Research Profile

Sylvia C. Tiwon, Associate Professor. Indonesia, South and Southeast Asian studies, literature and gender, cultural studies of Southeast Asia, discourse oral, print, electronic, socio-cultural formations at the national and sub-nation level, non-governmental organizations.
Research Profile

Alexander Von Rospatt, Professor. Ritual studies, Nepalese studies, Buddhist traditions of South Asia, doctrinal history, Newar Buddhism.
Research Profile

Peter B. Zinoman, Associate Professor. Vietnam, Vietnam War, Vietnamese literature, Southeast Asian history, communism, nationalism, colonialism.
Research Profile


Gregory Bruce, Lecturer.

Abhijeet Paul, Lecturer.

Cynthia Agnes C. Aban, Lecturer.

Maria Barrios-Leblanc, Lecturer.

Supatra Chowchuvech, Lecturer.

* Sally J. Goldman, Senior Lecturer. Women's studies, South and Southeast Asian studies, buddhist Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Sanskrit language, valmiki ramayana translation project, South Asian women, epic and classical Sanskrit literature, vyakarana or Sanskrit grammar, Veda.
Research Profile

Karen Llagas, Lecturer.

Ninik Lunde, Lecturer. Linguistics, comparative literature, South and Southeast Asian studies, Indonesian language, Javanese, Balinese and Sumatranese dances.
Research Profile

Nora Melnikova, Lecturer.

Cam Nguyen, Lecturer.

Bharathy Sankara Rajulu, Lecturer.

Francis J. Smith, Lecturer.

Hanh Tran, Lecturer.

Upkar K. Ubhi, Lecturer. Architecture, South and Southeast Asian studies, Punjabi, curriculum developments, marketing trends, building arts.
Research Profile

Kenneth Wong, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

George L. Hart, Professor Emeritus. South and Southeast Asian studies, Tamil studies, classical Sanskrit, South Indian religion and culture, Indian civilization, Indian literature, Indian religion.
Research Profile

Usha R. Jain, Senior Lecturer Emeritus.

Padmanabh S. Jaini, Professor Emeritus.

* James A. Matisoff, Professor Emeritus. Linguistics, Japanese, Southeast Asian languages, Tibeto-Burman, Thai, Chinese, field linguistics, Yiddish studies, historical semantics, psychosemantics, language typology, areal linguistics.
Research Profile

Bruce R. Pray, Professor Emeritus.

Joanna Williams, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies

7233 Dwinelle Hall

Berkeley, CA 94720-2540

Phone: 510-642-4218

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Paula Varsano

3325 Dwinelle Hall

Student Service Advisor

Presi Diaz

3409 Dwinelle Hall

Undergraduate Faculty Advisor

Jacob Dalton

3114 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-1610

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