PhD in East Asian Religions

The East Asian Religion field provides extensive training in the cultural, linguistic, and textual traditions relevant to each student’s area of interest, as well as a firm methodological grounding in the study of religion. The Department’s core and affiliated faculty exhibit particular strengths in Japanese Buddhism, Shinto and Japanese Religions, and Chinese Buddhism and Daoism. The Center for Buddhism and East Asian Religions supports faculty and student scholarship on campus through workshops, symposia, and guest lectures.

M.Phil. Field Examinations: Reading Lists

Prior to the first examination, students develop reading lists in consultation with their advisor and faculty members who will serve on an examination committee consisting of three or more Columbia faculty members. The M.Phil. examination is typically structured around three areas, each with its own reading list, although some students or advisors may wish to depart from this structure as the student’s interests and developing expertise warrant. Examination lists will generally consist of approximately 100 titles total.

Structure of the First Exam

The first field examination comprises two parts.  In the first part, in response to questions from the examination committee members, the student produces during a one-week period three written essays. Generally, each essay will be approximately 15 pages in length. The second part consists of a two-hour oral examination, which serves as the defense of the student's three written essays. This examination is normally taken at the end of the third year (but no later than the end of the fourth year) of PhD study.

PhD Dissertation Prospectus

The student must also pass an oral defense of a dissertation prospectus before his or her M.Phil. oral examination committee or before a dissertation prospectus committee selected by the advisor. The prospectus, which should be developed in close consultation with the student’s advisor, will generally be of approximately 25 pages in length and will include chapter summaries as well as a detailed bibliography. The prospectus defense is normally carried out in conjunction with the M.Phil. oral examination, but it may be taken afterwards, either within six months of the oral examination or before leaving for field research (whichever occurs first). For the purpose of fellowships requirements, it is possible to defend the prospectus in advance of the oral defense.

Language Requirements

By the time of the completion of the first field exam, the student should acquire at least four years of competency in one modern East Asian language plus two years in another. In addition, students are expected to have acquired competency in classical forms of languages relevant to their research.