Andreas Mehler & Bert Hoffmann
Area studies is the generic term for multidisciplinary social research that focuses on specific geographic regions or culturally defined areas. The largest scholarly communities in this respect are loosely defined as Asian, African, Latin American or Middle Eastern studies, together with a variety of subfields (Southeast Asian studies, Caribbean studies, etc.). Political science plays a major role in area studies programs, which typically also draw on disciplines such as history, sociology, ethnology, geography, linguistics, literature, and cultural studies. In political science, the presence of area studies is strongest in comparative politics, but they are also incorporated in international relations (IR) and other fields. This entry first describes the origins of area studies, from early colonial studies to the development and institutionalization of area studies in the Cold War era. It then outlines the not always easy relation between area studies and the discipline of political science, highlighting key achievements as ...