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Comparative Studies

Degree: BA

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary field of comparative studies provides students the opportunity for critical analysis of social and cultural processes and their expression in religion, literature, media, the arts, science and technology. Students in the comparative studies program develop strong skills in analytical and critical thinking and in written and spoken communication. Students broaden their understanding of cultural differences as they attend to the intersections of gender, ethnicity, race and class. 

Focus areas

Comparative cultural studies, the comparative study of cultural production in different contexts. Students focus their work in particular areas (e.g., visual culture, popular culture, social and critical theory).

Comparative ethnic and American studies, the study of ethnicity and race in the Americas. Students analyze how the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class have shaped American culture.

Comparative literature, the study of world literary traditions in cultural context. Students study the literature of different historical periods and geographical areas, including some foreign language study.

Folklore, the study of everyday forms of cultural expression. Students analyze the expressive cultures of groups—music, dance, story, food, architecture, craft, festival, custom—and how groups and the scholars who study them deploy these forms to affect relations of power.

Religious studies, the study of different religious traditions in cultural context. Students focus their work on relationships between religion and such areas as politics, science and technology, gender and sexuality, and race and ethnicity.

Science and technology studies, the study of science and technology as forms of cultural expression. Students analyze cultural, political and economic factors in relation to directions of scientific research and technological development.

Upon admission to the university, students can declare a major in comparative studies within the College of Arts and Sciences. Interested students should contact the undergraduate advisor in the Department of Comparative Studies and an undergraduate advisor in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The comparative studies undergraduate program is interdisciplinary and calls upon students to participate actively in shaping the major for themselves. Consequently, the major is both academically rigorous and tailored to students’ particular interests. 

The comparative studies major requires 36 semester hours in comparative studies and in fields related to the student’s area of concentration, including at least 21 semester hours at the 3000-level and above.

In consultation with their faculty advisors, students choose elective courses from a list of specified classes in other departments as well as required and elective courses in comparative studies. Each student’s course work will be different but will be coherent and focused within one of the areas of concentration.

Each area of concentration includes the following:

  • Foundation courses to provide an introduction to the area of study
  • Interdisciplinary requirements to analyze different disciplinary perspectives in relation to each subject and to emphasize interconnections among different areas of study (e.g. religion and politics, science and literature, gender and popular culture)
  • Distribution requirements to provide depth and focus within the area of concentration (e.g., particular religious or literary traditions, forms of cultural expression, or areas of scientific research or technological development)

Depending upon their interests, students may choose some courses offered by the various participating units, including all of the language and literature departments and the departments of African American and African studies, anthropology, communication, history, history of art, philosophy, sociology, and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

The department supports student research in a variety of ways, but most importantly through opportunities to work closely with faculty to develop a personalized research agenda that culminates in a thesis project. Most comparative studies majors graduate with research distinction. 

Students can join the Comparative Studies Undergraduate Club and participate in social events and social justice initiatives. 

Students majoring in comparative studies develop strong skills in analytical and critical thinking and in written and spoken communication. These skills are essential to many positions in both the public and private sector: government; local, national and international service organizations; business and industry; and all levels of education. Comparative studies students also develop their understanding of cultural differences as they attend to the intersections of gender, ethnicity, race and class. In an increasingly diverse nation and interconnected world, employers have come to value this important area of expertise. 

Graduates have further pursued a wide range of academic fields—including religious studies, cultural studies, English, history and American studies—at some of the best graduate schools in the nation such as at the University of Minnesota, the University of Maryland, the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, the University of Chicago and many others. 

Many graduates of the program choose to attend professional schools and pursue law, medical, teaching or social work degrees. 

Whether moving immediately to a graduate or professional school, finding a rewarding job in the public or private sector, or taking a few years off to travel or to serve in the Peace Corps or other organizations, comparative studies students are well prepared to make their way in the diverse and complicated world they will inherit.

Go to to find more information about careers for comparative studies majors.