Summer Program (Continued)
Professor Shigeto Sonoda (Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia and Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, The University of Tokyo)
In my last essay, I wrote “what are the merits of creating such programs? If you ask me whether there are any research gains from such programs, my answer will be ‘yes’ when I am high-spirited and ‘no’ when I am low-spirited.” Why is this the case?
When I’m low-spirited, my assessment of my own work tends to be short-sighted. I can’t immediately tell how much students could get benefit from the program although a lot of time and energy was poured. Not only that. Though we used university funding and external donation (rather than their tuition) for the program, some students would take our efforts for granted. They are like those children who expect their parents’ care free of charge.
If I have enough physical and mental energy left, I can accept such situations and keep on believing the importance of education as long-term investment. Moreover, I can learn a lot from attending program lectures and sometimes receive more stimulations than students from fieldtrips and other extracurricular activities.
For me, the biggest merit of organizing a summer program is to get opportunities to reflect myself what to be questioned and researched.
We need attractive lectures to design successful program. But deciding on lecturing professors and lecture topics depends on what kind of overall theme we set up for the program. The theme of the joint program with University of Hong Kong was “Understanding Asia and Japan through Hong Kong” and the theme for the joint program with National Taiwan University was “Understanding Taiwan and Japan in Global Settings.” As introduced in my last essay, the upcoming summer program of the Global Japan Studies network is organized under the theme “An Inquiry into Japan’s Postwar”. Similar to above-mentioned two joint program themes, this theme reflects our idea that postwar Japan is an important area of inquiry for Japanese studies.
Whether this theme is timely or not will be clear from students’ reaction. This is not a requirement for graduation and students will not make the efforts of crossing oceans to join the program if the theme is not attractive to them.
Themes that students cling to are those worth deep exploration. Whether those themes can be found depends on the sense and ability of program organizers. To put it differently, in the sense that organizer will get feedback from the students, program management is a kind of on-job-training for the would-be professors.
Under current conditions of the University of Tokyo, however, whoever organizes and operates a summer program is perceived to be a man of curiosity or man of leisure. People may think it better to spend time for their own research than to spend time for management of the program because they cannot afford to do so financially.
It is indeed very natural for people to think that one would want to focus on one’s research during the summer, the period of liberation from every-day administrative duties.
However, this kind of “rational thinking” may narrow our range of education and research, and may decrease the opportunities to obtain potential supporters for their research. Moreover, it is really a stimulating experience to operate a program when you don’t know what kind of students will gather together.
Global Japan Studies is a field of research with enormous potential of growth.
In my essay published in most recent monthly journal UP (University of Tokyo Press), I wrote in the following: “Until recently, entering into the observed society and gain “internal” perspectives has been thought to be important for China studies. As such, people thought it necessary to learn Chinese, exchange opinions with researchers in China, and obtain a deep understanding of Chinese affairs. The difficulty in current Chinese studies, however, […] lies in the fact that there are disagreements not just between internal and external perspectives but even between external perspectives themselves. Depending on the perspectives, images of China vary greatly from each other.”
The same can be said to the Japanese studies. Through implementing the summer program, we will be able to recognize difficulties and possibilities of the Global Japan Studies. I will make report on it after September when the program is concluded.