The program of study at ASAFAS encourages students to make efforts to actually live in their area of study, doing fieldwork, identifying problems and conducting investigations into the complex interrelationships between the ecology, society and culture. While they are in the field, students are provided with research guidance by collaborating local universities and research institutes, all of which have close ties with Kyoto University, based on a long history of conducting area studies in Asia and Africa. The programs at ASAFAS are formulated to provide students with the guiding principles for investigation and research based on fieldwork, and to support and lead them eventually in writing up the results of their fieldwork into original dissertations as part of the requirements for their doctoral degree.
The standard time for completion of the doctoral program is five years. During this time students must complete the necessary supervised study under the guidance of their supervising committee, undertaking three guided research projects, that is to say Guided Research I, II, and III; accumulate the required number of credits (a minimum of 40); complete and submit a doctoral dissertation; and pass a thesis defence and a general examination, whereupon they will be awarded a Doctoral Degree in Area Studies. Students should submit a pre-doctoral thesis for their doctoral dissertation before the end of their third year of enrollment in principle, and only those who pass the defence of their thesis will be allowed to go on to write their doctoral disserattion.
Students who already have outstanding academic accomplishments may be permitted to complete their degree in a shorter period than stipulated.
Those students who wish to leave the program with a Master’s degree may do so by accumulating a minimum of 30 credits, submitting a pre-doctoral thesis and passing a general examination, whereupon they will be eligible to receive a Master’s Degree in Area Studies.
The distinctive features of research guidance offered by the ASAFAS are:
Introduction to Basic Issues of Area Studies and Thoroughgoing Instruction in Approaches
The students who enroll at ASAFAS come from diverse undergraduate backgrounds, and they also include international students as well as mature students who are returning to university education after pursuing their careers. The ASAFAS faculty therefore offers in an omnibus format two courses, Introduction to Area Studies and Seminar on Asian and African Area Studies, both of which are required courses, designed to offer an interdisciplinary and comprehensive introduction to Asian and African area studies, which introduce the basic issues together with the approaches used to research them. The aim is that this will enable the students to combine and use the individual disciplines they learned as undergraduates with the more comprehensive discipline of area studies.
Acquisition of In-Depth Knowledge of Wideranging Topics in Asia and Africa
Lectures cover subjects specific to students in particular ASAFAS Divisions (“Group A” subjects) as well as subjects that are open to students in all ASAFAS Divisions (“Group B” subjects), and are given either by the Graduate School’s faculty members or adjunct lecturers: in principle students acquire a credit after a half-term’s worth of lectures. Students complete a course of study over their first and second years involving lectures and special lectures in their specific fields, and related subjects in their divisions. In the third year and beyond, they are encouraged to attend classes in “Group B” subjects and in other divisions’ subjects, so that they acquire an in-depth knowledge of a wide range of topics with the ability to put their own field in comparative perspective.
Supervision and Guidance from a Supervising Committee
The hallmark of ASAFAS is the holistic approach of its area studies. Accordingly, rather than relying on a single academic advisor, which is the norm in the Japanese university system, students can choose a committee of three academic supervisors in accordance with the nature and scope of their research topic. Of these, one person acts as the principal supervisor who is charged with guiding the student to complete the doctoral program.
A Curriculum that Emphasizes Fieldwork
Students are expected to conduct independent fieldwork in their field of study, discussing and refining their research topics through dialogue and exchange with the members of their supervising committee. They then write up their results, and submit them for approval by their principal supervisor. Before the end of their third year of enrollment in principle, they submit a pre-doctoral thesis based on the accumulation of their research topics, and this is further developed into the paper they submit as their doctoral dissertation.
Opportunities to Develop Ideas in “Research Seminars”
Students are encouraged to participate in the Research Seminars that are held by every faculty member in their respective fields of research guidance. In these seminars students can present their research findings from fieldwork and build and develop them into truly original studies in their doctoral dissertations. The Research Seminars offer an opportunity for a thoroughgoing exchange of opinions, and are intended to help students develop their creative ideas and conduct truly independent research.
Opportunities to Share Findings in “Open Seminars”
The Open Seminars are open to researchers in other fields and other graduate schools and departments of Kyoto University, as well as interested members of the public. By presenting their research results in front of people outside their specific field, students gain an understanding of the significance of sharing their ideas and discoveries in area studies with a larger audience.