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Institute for Cultural Interaction Studies, Kansai University

Institute Overview

What is Cultural Interaction?

Cultural Interaction   Cultural Interaction Studies is a new academic research field. It transcends the analysis units of national and ethnic bonds, regards East Asia as a cultural complex with a certain coherence, and, while paying constant attention to the generation, transmission, contact, and transformation of cultures therein, endeavors to explain the total state of cultural interaction from a diverse and synthetic viewpoint. Kansai University possesses an abundant accumulation of research resources centering on the history of relations between Japan and China. Cultural Interaction Studies aims at building an even broader academic system on the basis of this cultural relations research.
    Traditional cultural relations research has been formulated from an accumulation of case studies dealing with cultural items and groupings of individual subjects in each separate field. Though knowledge in different academic fields such as language, thought, ethnic groups, religion, literature, and history has been accumulated in separate descriptions, how best to formulate a holistic image of cultural interaction is yet an unexplored field. This reflects the very nature of the present state of research in the field of humanities, which lacks connections across individual academic borders and fails to present a comprehensive picture of any one particular subject.
    Cultural relations research to date has been conducted on the premise of a national research framework. For example, research, such as in the case of the history of relations between Japan and China, is conducted in the framework of the cultural relations between countries. Even between these countries, individual researchers are restrained by the premise of a national framework, either Japanese or Chinese. A real cross-border, comprehensive research structure or research field has not yet been realized. Regarding East Asia, the concept of East Asian civilizations and East Asian cultural zones from a transnational perspective already exists, but uncritical research based upon this sort of civilization and cultural zone theory has posited an oversimplified advanced civilization at its core and failed to get rid of such overly simplistic notions as “civilized vs. non-civilized” and “central area vs. surrounding areas.” Because of this, it is impossible to comprehend the cross-directional nature of cultural interactions and cast aside the concept of a one-way procession embodied in the idea of “transmission of culture from China to the surrounding nations,” described as being like water flowing from a high place to lower places. The various multifaceted aspects of cultural contact are taken up only sporadically.
    In contrast to this type of research into East Asian culture, Cultural Interaction Studies, while building on the achievements in cultural relations research to date, is an academic arena aiming at leaping forward to an even higher stage of academic research. In order to achieve this goal, we need to consciously transcend the strictures of narrow national and academic field frameworks. Though the themes of cultural interaction research are various and diverse, we assume the following as our overall research axes: "various aspects of cultural interactions as seen from the medium," "cultural contact and the regional characteristics of its effects," and "cultural image and identity as seen from outside.”
    The current research project for East Asia does not presume a static cultural core, nor does it employ the approach of exploring the culture of one country or one region as an isolated unit. In order to break out of the confines of cultural research restrained to a single country or to a specific country vs. another country, we view East Asia as a cultural complex constructed as the result of an unbroken chain of cultural contacts and thus seek to rethink it from a diverse perspective of humanities studies. By so doing, it will be possible to comprehend, for the first time, the multifaceted form of cultural interaction in East Asia. This, in turn, will result in a reappraisal of the traditional cultural image of the East Asian region. This kind of innovative approach is what is most needed at present in the field of cultural research in East Asia.

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   The Institute seeks to develop cultural interaction studies as a new academic discipline based on distinctive research into the history of cultural exchanges between China and Japan—its primary focus—and to further the training of young researchers in the techniques of the new discipline. Its activities are informed by the following three objectives:

  1.To train young, independent researchers with an international drive who share a multifaceted outlook that approaches the world of East Asia as a cultural complex of multilateral relationships.

  2.To develop cultural interaction studies as a new academic discipline by moving beyond a paradigm of cultural exchange research that is confined to traditional bilateral relations and disciplines, and to conduct research into its theory, methodology, and specific case studies.

  3.To link with an international network research into topics such as cultural exchange and the histor y of foreign relations that is conducted independently worldwide, to lead cultural research throughout East Asia, and to build a research hub anchored by an international association.

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Institute Organization

   Kansai University’s Graduate School of Letters has been reorganized to add a program in the Cultural Interaction Studies, which will serve as the organizational basis for the Institute’s efforts to train professionals in the field starting in April 2008. At the same time, the Institute for Cultural Interaction Studies has been created to serve as the organizational basis for implementing the COE program, including its research activities. All project member and suppor ting staf f (visiting professors, assistant professors, fellows, post-doctoral fellows) belong to the Institute. At the same time, a new Global COE Council chaired by the University’s president has been set up to facilitate the development of a support structure for focusing the efforts of related university departments in order both to speed decision-making and university-wide coordination and to manage program progress while offering necessary advice.

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Research Activities

   The approach to cultural interaction studies we are attempting to establish seeks to move beyond the traditional analytical units of nations and peoples by focusing on a cultural complex that encompasses all of East Asia. This comprises a new field of academic research, one that pays attention to a range of phenomena including the generation, transmission, contact, and transformation of culture inside that complex as part of an ef for t to investigate the total reality of cultural interaction from a multifaceted and comprehensive point of view. A faculty seminar in Cultural Interaction Studies consisting of all Institute members has been formed and charged with developing the necessary methodologies and providing general overviwe of associated research activities. Organizationally, this faculty seminar will preside over four regional research groups.

Transcending Traditional Boundaries
    Cultural exchange studies used to primarily compile case studies which have been conducted within the each specific disciplines such as language, thought, ethnology, religion, literature, and history. At the same time, units of nation-states have been regarded as the referential framework in this approach. For example, individual research projects into Chinese-Japanese cultural exchanges have tended to be limited to Japanese and Chinese national frameworks.
    Cultural interaction studies serves as a stage for transcending these limitations to realize a more sophisticated form of academic research, even as researchers utilize the results of traditional research into cultural exchanges. In terms of research methodology, the approach avoids establishing any fixed cultural centers and shuns investigating the cultures of any countries or regions separately from the others. Instead, it approaches East Asia in the context of multilateral relationships and posits East Asian culture as a cultural complex that has developed through a series of unending cultural contacts. The role of cultural interaction studies targeting East Asia is to accomplish a fresh analysis that incorporates the various perspectives of the humanities.

Research Nodes
   The Institute posits the following three research focuses as broad-based axes for organizing a variety of cultural interactions in an inclusive manner and moving beyond research frameworks based on both individual nations and academic disciplines:

1.Aspects of cultural interactions from the standpoint of mediation
  This focus includes far-ranging research subjects such as people (as both individuals and groups), objects (books, traded products, etc.), means of transpor tation such as shipping, trade routes, and the international relations that define them. Research conducted at the Institute not only approaches these topics individually from the standpoint of a variety of areas of specialization but also assimilates them into the larger context of East Asia.

2.Regional cultural contacts and their effects
   This focus identifies particular regions in East Asia and seeks to compare their cultural interactions with those of other regions. Researchers in the four regional research groups of Northeast Asia, Coastal Asia, Inland Asia, and Outside Asia Regions initially address the question of how each region approached its relationships with Chinese culture and then pursue joint research into the place of each region’s culture in the greater context of East Asia.

3.Culture as seen by others and the formation of cultural identity
   This focus addresses the gap between self-images and the way other people see them, as well as how other people’s perception of self is related to the formation of one’s own cultural identity. This problem inevitably emerges when considering contacts between different cultures, and it embodies an essential point of view for this program given its approach to East Asia as a cultural complex.

Dissemination of Information
   Bulletins describing research results and a newsletter reporting on daily activities are published not only in Japanese but also in a variety of languages including English and Chinese. Additionally, a website introducing the Institute’s activities and program content is available in Japanese, English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), and Korean versions, and the Institute is building and publicizing a database for use by researchers worldwide.

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Organizational Chart

 Organizational Chart

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