Shigeto SONODA (University of Tokyo)
Hello. I'm Shigeto Sonoda, who is newly elected as 25th President of Japan Association for Asian Studies (JAAS).
As I confessed at the reception of this year’s spring convention at Hitotsubashi University (24th of June, 2017), I, as a sociologist, had a small hesitation to be a president of Azia Seikei Gakkai (Japanese name of JAAS) because "Seikei" literally means "politics and economy." In fact, previous presidents of the association were from political science, economics, as well as history and international relations. This is quite natural considering that JAAS “was established in 1953 for the purpose of conducting and publishing results of theoretical and empirical research centering on politics and economy in Asia” (http://www.jaas.or.jp/epages/aboutjaas.htm), which is the reason why I was afraid that I was not qualified to be a president.
However, JASS erases seikei (politics and economics) from its English name like my home affiliation (Toyo Bunka Kenkyusho), which erases bunka (culture) from its English name (Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia) though it has experts from “hard” social sciences like politics, economics, and law. In fact, I personally believe aspects of society will enrich knowledge of politics and economy as well as their relations in Asia and Asian Studies.
Needless to say, our association has a mission to provide our members with opportunities to present their research findings and maintain / develop intellectual platform among them. It is natural, therefore, for our association to spend a lot of energy and efforts to host two annual conventions as well as to publish quarterly magazine Azia Kenkyu (Asian Studies).
Recently, however, I came to realize that our association is now facing two "challenging missions" that cannot be easily solved by a bottom-up approach.
Firstly, how fruits of Asian studies can be embodied into concrete educational programs and how we can teach Asian studies systematically to the students.
As each association is responsible for the reproduction of scholarship, we cannot ignore education for the younger generation. But we haven’t discussed educational aspects of Asian studies in recent annual conventions. Though Science Council Japan has argued textbook issues recently, I’m afraid there is no impact on our discussion within JAAS so far. Thus I hope to start to discuss how to overcome the gap between research and education in Asian studies.
Secondly, and more importantly, how we should evaluate our previous researches in Asian studies in Japan and how we can critically succeed them for the future.
The position of Japan in Asian studies after the WWII was very high. Development of Asia, however, created intellectual climate in which each part of Asia analyses and evaluates its own politics, economy, and society, which paradoxically necessitates it for us to reflect intellectual legacy of Asian studies in Japan. Considering that scholarly works on Asia, especially on China, are flourishing in Europe and US, we cannot help asking how we can connect our researches in Japan with global community on Asian studies. How can we promote fruitful dialogues with scholars on Asian studies in and out of Asia? I believe we should more seriously reflect our intellectual legacy of Asian studies in "Japan," which cannot be seen in our association’s name in Japanese but is included in our English name.
I’m afraid my greetings went too far. Anyway, I sincerely hope that members of JAAS will keep on doing their own research as actively as ever.