The Seoul National University Asia Center has frequently engaged in comprehensive ‘regional’ or ‘topic’-based studies. Since May 2020, the Seoul National University Asia Center has pursued an agenda examining “Asias and Mega-Asia: Identities, Dynamics, Data-telling,” supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea. The 21st century is a time of where Asia’s politics and economic emergence have taken centre stage, being called by some the Asian Century. Consequently, questions about Asia and Asianness will only grow. Therefore, to move beyond a fractional approach to Asia, examining only nations or regions, answering these questions demands a view covering Mega-Asia, one that investigates the entirety of Asia as a single phenomenon.

The concept of Mega-Asia is a novel attempt to investigate Asia both academically and practically through the humanities and social sciences. Mega-Asia is not an Asia defined by its ‘otherness’ to the West, but a research concept where Asia has changed and reconstituted itself through time. Through comparative regional approaches examining the drivers and dynamics of relationships between Asian regions, the Mega-Asia Research Project aims to investigate Asia’s identities diachronically, synchronically, and at multiple scales.

So, why is an Asian perspective needed? Until now, definitions of and perspectives on Asia have broadly followed the arbitrary divisions laid down by Western conceptions, establishing limitations to current research on Asia. However, attempts to see Asia through Asian eyes are increasing. Modern Asia is an imaginative space that hopes for regional solidarity, where the flow of human, material, and cultural resources between regions can lead to the emergence of a new Asia. In this period of Pandemic, and the post-Pandemic era, we must take global and local perspectives into account, engaging in research ‘glocalism’, where each region’s commonalities and particularities are considered simultaneously.

Through three specific research agendas our project investigates the causes and dynamics of relationships among regions within Mega-Asia. These agendas are (i) “Asia Built by Discourse”, (ii) “Asia Operating in Modern Times”, and (iii) “Asia Overcoming Boundaries”. More recently, interest in New Continentalism and New Maritimism has also been growing, and so this project’s aim to overcome regionalism and fully focus on Mega-Asia anticipates that trend.

Insightful analysis of Asia, offering an overarching understanding of Asia’s diverse identities and regions through an Asian perspective, is our key aim. Through these analyses, we will provide an overview the future and continuing possibilities of the Asian Era while also crafting a space for Asian people’s independent agency.

Furthermore, in order to undertake research into specific phenomena within the concept of Mega-Asia we have set up three research clusters, as shown in the picture below; (i) ‘Comparative Regional Research in Asia Cluster’, (ii) ‘Mega-Asia Research Cluster’, and (iii) ‘Data Storytelling Cluster’. During Phase One of the project (2020-2023), each research cluster will produce three volumes for a series titled the ‘Mega-Asia Research Series’.