Osaka University GLOBAL COE PROGRAM A Research Base for Conflict Studies in the Humanities


Purpose of “A Research Base for Conflict Studies in the Humanities”

This program promotes practical research and fosters top-level human resources related to the problems of “conflicts with a global dimension”. It is, therefore, necessary to connect and ensure cooperation amongst not only the diverse disciplines of the humanities but also certain fields in the social sciences. The various fields of anthropology (cultural anthropology, political anthropology, social anthropology, economic anthropology, and medical anthropology) then become the nucleus, while linguistics (sociolinguistics, language contact theory, language typology, and historical linguistics), philosophy (especially clinical philosophy), and art studies (especially arts crossing borders) also play a role in this.

Then, in order to obtain a wider, more fundamental view on global issues, the study of history (colonial history), the history of social thought, sociology (global studies), science and technology studies, the study of modern civilization, and literature (literature crossing borders) are included as well. Besides these, practical fields featuring a global approach, such as international cooperation, multicultural education, clinical pedagogy, human development, local symbiosis, and human security are also included. Nevertheless, the problem of global conflicts is not a mere target for research; it is always necessary to form a structure that ensures mutual feedback between the research itself and practical involvement.

While the fields given above are diverse, we have meticulously selected them in their relation to the “conflicts with a global dimension” theme.

This program aims at building an international research base for “Conflict Studies in the Humanities” at Osaka University based on the results of another 21st century COE program implemented at the university: “Interface Humanities”. To achieve this, in addition to the basic fields of history, sociology, etc., and focusing on anthropology, linguistics, and philosophy as described above, a system to promote research and education is constructed that includes the support of such practical fields as international cooperation, human development, pedagogy, and human security, etc.

Analyzing problems related to social, cultural, national and ethnic confrontation and opposition, and dealing with those problems in some shape or form, is one of the most crucial issues in the modern global community. The situation changed qualitatively and became much more acute after the 1990s when the Cold War structure of the East and West collapsed. From a comparatively understandable paradigm of political confrontation between states, blocs, or large ideologies, multitudes of social, cultural, national and ethnic groups became mutually and complexly intermingled with each other. As the circumstances became more fluid and the groups themselves rapidly transformed, various confrontations arose, including those at cultural, religious, social, and economical levels. In order to comprehend these ever more complex and fluid states of confrontation, we need to obtain a more detailed and “thick” understanding in realistic terms based on empirical investigation. If a strategy to reduce such confrontation does exist, it is necessary to make a prerequisite of that type of understanding. That is what the interpretative anthropology of Clifford Geertz teaches.

The intimate mutual relations between the various elements that compose the global society, like states, local societies, and cultures, has resulted in a situation that even researchers analyzing the realities of such relationships say is complex. The quality of the conflicts that occur there has changed as well. Not only the conventionally known political and military conflicts or conflicts over economic interests, but, in addition to that, national or ethnic conflicts, conflicts based on language, conflicts related to the ownership of art, border transgressions and identity, various conflicts on ideology, conflicts originating from religious beliefs and practices, and conflicts over history or the understanding of history, etc., also stand out more and more at the forefront of today’s world. We have, in a word, a conflict over “values”.

In order to understand this kind of conflict and consider a realistic strategy in dealing with it, it is becoming clear that, in addition to a social science or political economic approach, research from the aspect of the humanities is also necessary. Thus, it is the purpose of this Global COE Program to construct a base where such research can be developed through an internationally cooperative relationship.

The research in this program features the following approaches:

1. The experiential and dynamic understanding of the realities of each individual case in regard to situations of confrontation and conflict.

2. The clinical understanding of the views and practices of each individual, in the present progressive sense, and the planning for data collection based on empirical research in order to achieve that understanding.

3. The refinement of conceptual devices and the establishment of a theory for analysis based on such materials, while reflecting other relevant disciplines without being confined to a single discipline.

4. The accomplishment of conceptualization and theorization under a new framework that does not revisit the European and American centrism of “The End of History” and “The Clash of Civilizations”, etc; The demand for such framework and the requirement that it involves call for international cooperation that includes researchers from both inside and outside Europe and the United States.

5. The aim towards practical involvement in the problem (not in the resolution of confrontation and conflict but rather in a realistic approach like that which targets reduction) with an understanding and dialogue that is based on such cooperation.

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