International Institute for Asian Studies

IIAS focuses on research topics related to its three broad thematic clusters: Asian Cities, Asian Heritages, and Global Asia



IIAS strives to maintain a balance between the humanities and social sciences, and between ‘full-blooded’ science and ‘science for society’.

On the one hand, IIAS supports research programmes that address societal questions relevant to present-day Asian societies while paying attention to both current and historical trends. On the other, the Institute also favours research that unravels complex processes and provides points of impact for renewal and improvement, in such areas as linguistics, literature, music and arts, media, history, and so on.

IIAS research is characterised by the facilitation of researchers and the thematic flexibility regarding long-term programmes, welcoming different academic disciplines and regional specialisations.

The Institute’s network provides researchers and their projects an opportunity to ‘embed’ in an international, academic and non-academic, environment. Moreover, Bringing toghether scholars and practitioners, IIAS stimulates a multi-sector, pluridisciplinary approach to the study of Asia. 

Thematic research clusters

Most IIAS research and other activities are carried out under the aegis of programmatic thematic clusters that address questions relevant to present-day Asian societies while paying attention to long-term historical trends, and all built around the notion of social agency. The aim of this approach is not to exclude anyone or any topic, -IIAS also welcomes research in other areas-, but to cultivate synergies and coherence between people and projects, as well as to generate more interaction with Asian societies.

Asian Cities

Keeping a close eye on contemporary developments, the cluster seeks to explore the longstanding Asian urban ‘tradition’, by discussing the origins of urbanism and urban culture in different parts of Asia, and by linking the various elements of city cultures and societies, from ancient to modern (colonial to postcolonial) times.

Global Asia

Paying attention to past and present trends, the ‘Global Asia’ cluster addresses contemporary issues related to transnational interactions within the Asian region as well as throughout the world via the flows of people, goods, capital and ideas.

Asian Heritages

The Asian heritages cluster focuses on the politics of culture and cultural heritages in Asia. It addresses the variety of definitions associated with heritage and their implications for social agency.



Scholars who are attached to one of IIAS's research programmes are called "research scholars". In addition we receives a large number of visiting researchers who come to Leiden to work on their individual research projects as affiliated fellows. They make use of the extensive ('oriental') collections in Leiden and the Netherlands (KITLV, Kern Library, and other specialised libraries), The Hague (National Archive) and Amsterdam (International Institute of Social History, for example), or use their time, for example, to write up research findings or finish a manuscript.