Since the mid-seventies, Women's Studies has emerged as an instrument of educational and social transformation in Asia and has been one of the fastest developing academic fields in Asia. In the brief history of 30 years, Women's Studies in Asia has witnessed the widening gap between women's life experiences in Asia in the context of rapid social changes, and the feminist scholarship of Asian women.
Asian women as objects of research are often treated as homogenous, ahistorical and powerless. This is mainly due to the lack of expertise in Women's Studies and publication of research by local scholars. Furthermore, much of the available scholarship is written in English and rooted in western experience. Unfortunately, Women's Studies in Asian countries has also been criticized for importing western practices which are not applicable to culturally different societies.
Therefore, there is a need for Women's Studies scholars in Asia, to establish an institutional basis to construct a body of knowledge relevant to women's experiences in Asian countries, train Women's Studies scholars on Asian Women, and enhance mutual understanding among Women's Studies practitioners and policy-makers in Asia. Also, it is very important for them to work together and discuss how global forces create transnational issues that affect women's lives in the contemporary Asian context.
Therefore, Asian Women's Studies are founded on a concept of sharing and understanding commonalities and differences in women's experience in Asia. Asian Women's Studies aims to construct a knowledge system for Asian women based on cultural and historical specificities that is better suited to Asian women's needs and therefore works toward creating a gender-equal society in Asia.
In 1997 the Asian Center for Women's Studies launched a three-year project entitled "Women's Studies in Asia: Knowledge Exchange, Theory and Practice (1997-2000)." Conceptualized as part of our feminist inquiry into constructing and reconstructing Asian women subjects as active historical agents, project programs have held more than ten international workshops. They have also conducted in-depth research on Women's Studies, particularly on themes of interest to the participants in our eight-polity networkㅡChina, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.
Our long-term objectives are to develop analytical tools to understand Asian women's current realities, and develop curricula and pedagogical guidelines that are sensitive to local, historical and cultural contexts. We seek to build a school for Women's Studies in Asia.