Message from the Dean

In this graduate program, we offer “integrated area studies,” an interdisciplinary approach that can be described in terms of the following four elements.

Firstly, the program pursues graduate school education through cutting-edge research based on the integration of field research and on-site education. In the field, students are expected to take charge of their own research independently.

Secondly, the program advocates an interdisciplinary approach, one that integrates humanities and science. Area studies researchers, whether students or teaching staff, include many individuals who have a broad outlook and range of interests, while as a group the field brings together people with various different backgrounds. In our approach, we endeavor to promote research that makes use of these complex elements. More so than just collaborate with people from different fields, individuals pursue research which also goes beyond their particular specializations. We consider this kind of so-called trans-disciplinary approach essential in understanding regions of the world where, from the start, nature (ecology), culture and history come together.

Thirdly, we aim at an area studies program which takes into consideration an understanding of regions from a global perspective, as well as a view toward drawing comparisons between regions. In order to better understand specific regions, there is a need to shift one’s attention to other regions and to constantly think toward situating regions in the world as a whole.

Lastly, we also work to integrate basic research with applied research. Basic research aims at an understanding of regional characteristics, whereas applied research seeks to clarify, based on an in-depth regional understanding, serious issues that different regions face, such as environmental conservation, regional development and ethnic conflict.

In the implementation of the above-stated research, “community-based” fieldwork is a pillar of education and research. Students cover closely their region of study, digging up and further investigating problems, with the result that long-term stay in the region is necessary. In order to grant students the possibility of pursuing research with an accordingly long-term outlook, an integrated 5-year doctoral course has been adopted. (There is also the possibility for students to stop their studies midway and continue on a different path. Thus those who do not plan to be enrolled for 5 years can enter the university. It is possible for a student to be admitted to the third year of the program after having received a masters degree from another university.)

Since 2002, the education structure has been supported through funding from the 21st Century COE Program “Aiming for COE of Integrated Area Studies: Establishing Field Stations in Asia and Africa, and Integrating Research Activities and On-Site-Education“. Many students have been dispatched to various regions in Asia and Africa in support of this fieldwork program. In 2007, along with Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies and other institutes, we initiated the Global COE Program “In Search of Sustainable Humanosphere in Asia and Africa”, making use of field stations advanced through the 21st Century COE program while implementing on-site education exploring new research possibilities. From 2007, we also launched an “International Training Program for young researchers (ITP)” aiming at the acquisition of local languages for area studies, and at enhancing the capacity to communicate research results internationally. In addition, from 2008 we also started the “Field School for Building Bridges between Research and Practice,” a reform assistance program for graduate school education, and we are also putting efforts into training not only area studies researchers, but also into training Asia and Africa regional specialists.

2008 marked the 10th anniversary since the establishment of this graduate program. In April of 2009, with the start of the next decade, a new “Division of Global Area Studies” was created, which complement “Division of Southeast Asia Area Studies” and “Division of Africa Area Studies.”

Furthermore, we started, in cooperation with other graduate schools and institutes in our university, the “Inter-Graduate School Program for Sustainable Development and Survivable Societies” in 2011, and have established Center for On-Site Education and Research in 2013 in order to strengthen the area language training and to support the graduate students’ field works.

“Integrated area studies” holds deep and varied meaning. On the occasion of the establishment of this new division, we endeavor to develop area study research and education making full use of the features of this program, while also actively tackling new challenges.

OHTA, Itaru
Dean of the Graduate School