Dr. David Chu Program in Contemporary Asian Studies

As a student in the Dr. David Chu Program in Contemporary Asian Studies (CAS), you’ll learn from world-leading scholars of East, Southeast, and South Asia about the links between Asia’s diverse histories and cultures and the region’s evolving role in global affairs.

Our emphasis on experiential learning allows you to engage with Asia through research, travel, and collaboration. You’ll develop the foundational knowledge, skills, and connections to launch your career and build a lasting community.

Students during ITAC field research
Student ITAC presentations
students at CASSU event
CASSU executive team
Participants in the Global Careers through Asia Conference

Transform your understanding of the world and your place within it

  • The CAS program trains you to comprehend Asia’s roles in new global dynamics
  • You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the region and localities within it, while exploring the complex webs that connect local sites to contemporary global issues
  • Choose from a variety of courses that examine colonialism, modernity, youth cultures, cities, nationalism and revolution, research methodologies and more, through a pan-Asian, multidisciplinary lens
  • Design and carry out your own research in Asia with opportunities like the Richard Charles Lee Insights through Asia Challenge 
  • Our grads have gone on to careers in every field imaginable – the pan-Asian expertise and critical perspective you gain through CAS have universal value
Students celebrate at a conference.
Students clapping during ITAC presentations.

Meet your professors

Francis Cody
  • CAS201H1: Global Asian Studies: Insights and Concepts
Dylan Clark headshot

Dylan Clark, Lecturer, Asian Institute

  • CAS200H1: Introduction to Contemporary Asian Studies
  • CAS202H1: Global Asian Studies: Sites and Practices
  • CAS350H1: Asian Youth Cultures
  • CAS360H1: Asian Genders
Takashi Fujitani headshot
  • CAS310H1: Comparative Colonialisms in Asia
Lynette Ong
  • CAS490H: Politics of China and Democracy in Asia
  • JPA331H: Rise of China as a Global Power
  • JPA453H: Authoritarianism in Comparative Perspective
Irene Poetranto stands in Munk School garden.
  • CAS390H: Asia's Digital Futures
Bharat Punjabi

Bharat Punjabi, Lecturer, Asian Institute

  • CAS370H1: Asian Cities, SAS318H1: Colonialism and Tradition
Stephen Smith
  • CAS490H1: Special Topics: Comparative Regional Studies of China's Belt and Road Initiative
A light blue Person icon on a dark blue background

Aparna Sundar, Lecturer, Asian Institute

  • CAS320H1: Comparative Modernities in Asia

Special topics courses 2022-23

CAS390H1F: Asian Digital Network Practicum

Fall 2022, Monday 12:00 – 2:00 PM

Instructor: Dr. Dylan Clark, Lecturer, Asian Institute

Students are connected with a digital practicum placement in partnership with local, national, or international not-for-profits or governmental organizations connected to Asia. Students work in teams of 2-5 students, and help partner organizations address key issues they identify. Student teams work actively on strengthening on-line networks with partner organizations, while developing mutual mentoring, critique, and exchange with the organizations. Students are expected to invest 5-7 hours per week in course projects, in addition to class time. Students are expected to help teammates, advise other teams, and contribute their skills and talents to their community partners. The course will emphasize how groups can work together to contribute to extending, learning from, and contributing to transnational networks that bridge the University of Toronto and a range of partners throughout Asia.

CAS490H1F: Politics of China and Democracy in Asia

Fall 2022, Tuesday 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Instructor: Professor Lynette Ong

This joint undergrad/grad seminar is designed to provide students with an understanding of the underlying forces driving the political landscape in China and other Asian countries. We begin with the question why China has defied the modernization theory with the persistence of authoritarian regime. What are the nature of political institutions and state-society relations that explain this persistent outcome in China? We then examine the polities of South Korea, Taiwan and emerging Asian democracies to study the underlying patterns of state and societal forces that led to regime changes. This course seeks to understand the similarities and explain the differences of the hodgepodge of autocratic and democratic regimes in Asia, and ask “why” and “why not”. Students should be prepared to read course materials and engage in class discussion.

CAS390H1S: Asia’s Digital Futures

Winter 2023, Tuesday 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Instructor: Irene Poetranto, Senior Researcher, Citizen Lab, and Doctoral Candidate, Political Science

This course is designed for senior undergraduate students who wish to enhance their knowledge of Asia’s adoption of the Internet and digital tools, and how these tools and systems are reshaping Asian societies, including their politics, culture, and social movements. We will study how governments in the region regulate information flows online and experiment on new technologies that have the potential to either curtail or encourage public participation. This course will also examine the private sector's outsized role in our digital economy and its consequences for human rights and good governance. Finally, we will shed light on the role of the Internet as a site of contestation, where representation, dissent, and resistance are developed and negotiated. 

By the end of the course, students will be able to identify and distinguish the range of actors, institutions, and policies that constitute our global network society, and understand Asia’s impact on the future of technology. There are no exams in this course. Coursework required includes a quiz, a presentation, discussion board posts, essays, and class participation. Assignments in the course are designed to help students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, and learn how to write to different audiences.

CAS490H1S: Comparative Regional Studies of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Winter 2023, Thursday 2:00-4:00 PM

Instructor: Dr. Stephen Smith, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto

This course considers how China’s enormous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has generated cultural, political, social, and economic transformations across Asian and Eurasian contexts. The course is open to senior undergraduate and early graduate students from the Center for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies and the Asian Institute, as well as the Master of Global Affairs program. Focusing on China, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia, we will explore specific cases of geopolitics, geoeconomics and geoculture along the Digital, Green, and Health Silk Roads, looking at everything from surveillance in smart cities, to debt trap diplomacy, to the future of democracy in a China-centric world.

Image of Hui Wen Zheng
Meet Hui Wen Zheng, who travelled to Shenzhen and Hong Kong to conduct original research

Student groups

2023 CASSU exec team.

Contemporary Asian Studies Student Union

The Contemporary Asian Studies Student Union (CASSU) is the undergraduate course union for the Contemporary Asian Studies program at the University of Toronto. Follow CASSU on Instagram to learn about their upcoming events and opportunities, and contact them at cassu.executive@gmail.com.

2023 Synergy team.

Synergy: The Journal of Contemporary Asian Studies

Synergy is an undergraduate academic journal with a regional focus on East, Southeast, and South Asia founded at the Asian Institute. The journal regularly publishes academic submissions and organizes events. Learn more and visit the Synergy Journal website. 


Areas of focus - Victor Dementiev/Unsplash


Program Advisor & Communications Officer, Asian Institute