The Major

Overview of the Major

The South and Southeast Asian Studies major is a flexible, interdisciplinary program offering opportunities for both wide and comparative study of South and Southeast Asian cultures, literature, religion, and history. Students may choose from our thirteen of the region’s languages, including Bengali, Burmese, Filipino, Hindi, Indonesian, Khmer, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Goals of the Major

Majors acquire a general acquaintance with South and/or Southeast Asia and a more in-depth knowledge of the history, literature, or religion of the culture or area of their choosing. They are able to engage critically with contemporary scholarship on South and/or Southeast Asia as a whole and on their chosen field of specialization in particular.

Our majors also gain facility in at least one South and/or Southeast Asian language. If their chosen language is a modern one, at a minimum, they can read stories and articles, engage in everyday conversation, and write simple prose. In classical languages (such as Sanskrit), students gain basic reading facility in various genres and use standard research aids, such as dictionaries, traditional grammars, and the most up-to-date online resources.

Major Advisers

Upon declaring the major, students should meet with our Undergraduate Advisor,  Cassandra Dunn and our Undergraduate Faculty Adviser to lay out their course of study. The Undergraduate Faculty Advisor assists students, based on their interests, in selecting a Major Advisor from among the ladder-rank faculty in the Department. All majors will meet at least once each semester with their Major Advisor.

Major Requirements

A minimum of one year of language study. The precise number of total units varies according to the language and the language course level in which the student enrolls. All introductory level courses are five units per semester—barring Telugu, which is four units. Most intermediate courses are five units—barring Hindi, Telugu, and Urdu, which are four units. Most advanced courses are three units—barring Hindi and Tamil, which are four units.

A minimum of 24 units in upper-division courses. Any course with a designation above 100 counts as an upper-division course. The 24-unit minimum must include at least two gateway courses (see the following requirement).

Two gateway courses. Students must take at least two of the following: South Asia 100A (Ancient South Asia), South Asia 100B (Medieval-Modern South Asia), Southeast Asia 101A (Mainland Southeast Asia), or Southeast Asia 101B (Insular Southeast Asia). Students can take any combination of these courses and in any order.


  • Only one summer course with South and/or Southeast Asia content will count toward the required number of upper-division courses.
  • Only one upper-division course with South and/or Southeast Asia content will count from another department at UC Berkeley.
  • Only one course with South and/or Southeast Asia content from another institution will count toward the major.

Prerequisites to Declaring the Major

  • One semester of language study (with a letter grade of C or higher) taken at UC Berkeley
  • One semester of an approved upper-division course with a letter grade of 2.0/C or higher taken at UC Berkeley

Optional Honors Program for Majors

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 across all courses completed at UC Berkeley. An honors thesis is required, as is registration in SSEAS H195. Students who wish to participate must choose a thesis topic in consultation with their major adviser and apply for admission to the program through the Undergraduate Adviser. They must do so by the first week of the spring semester of their senior year.