A New Project on Border Studies is Set Up:
“Reshaping Japan’s Border Studies” Selected as a "Global COE”
(Centers of Excellence) Program.

The SRC’s application for the new project sponsored by the Japan Association of the Promotion of Science was approved. This program mobilizes methods and research tools from various disciplines of humanities and social sciences to establish a new research field focused on area studies. Special priority is given to political science, history, international relations, economics, geography, ethnography, anthropology, cultural and religious studies, environmental studies and any other related research disciplines covering border related issues. Finally, the program identifies commonly shared disciplines in border studies and features a new paradigm on area studies toward an international research community.

Objectives and Direction
First, the SRC expanded its target area from the Slavic and Eurasian spaces (the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe) to include neighboring areas such as China, India, Turkey, Western Europe and others. The SRC identified the challenges as a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union and disintegration of the former European communist space, and recognized the importance of interaction between the Slavic and Eurasian spaces and its surrounding areas. In the post-Cold War period, the previous framework of area studies such as “East Asia,” “South Asia,” “Middle East” does not work well to analyze state borders in an increasingly globalized world. This situation is illustrated by the popularity of such fashioned adjunct phrases as “great” or “greater” applied to “Central Asia,” the “Middle East,” “East Asia,” or “Europe” by policy makers and the mass media. A reconsideration of area studies is urgently required.

Second, the process of re-borderlization has also proceeded in parallel with de-borderlization as mentioned above. Many new but small or middle-scale countries created in the Slavic and Eurasian regions often trigger conflict among neighbors and are a source for potential regional disorder. Some cases are peaceful such as in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as in some former Soviet republics but most cases threaten human security and the previous stability in the region such as in the former Yugoslavia, the Black Sea Rim and Central Asia. This phenomenon, which became apparent since the end of the Cold War, is not confined within the borders of the Slavic and Eurasian communities. Simultaneous movement of the de-borderlization and re-borderlization processes can be observed throughout the world. This is why the establishment of a new methodology to compare similar phenomena in different areas is required as a common form of border studies. Such border studies could be a tool, even if not well coordinated yet, to make suggestions on wide-ranging border-related phenomena free from the constraints of segregated area studies.

It is true that border issues are directly caused by the realities of the boundary line exclusively managed by a sovereign state. Therefore, border research must be targeted to investigate on-site boundary issues as a fact-finding mission, first, and then, to compare the challenges with similar but different cases in another area through a more credible methodology. However, border-related phenomena are not necessary influenced by the factual borderline itself. Rather, the local inhabitants’ representation on where they should live and what they should share with others might be often more critical. Perceptions of the border, in turn, could reflect the border related challenges. For example, where is the line separating “Europe” from “non-Europe” in the consciousness of the people in “common” Europe? What is “Asia”? Is there such a thing as an “Asian value” really shared among Asian people? Why do many Russians feel threatened by an ascending China? This kind of “soft” border studies should necessarily collaborate with and support the studies of the more “visible” issues of demarcation, migration and its management on/around the borderland.

Compelling Reasons for Establishing this COE in Japan?
Japan, most of whose inhabitants are usually indifferent to national borders, is in fact faced with serious border problems. This means not only the territorial problems between Japan and Far Eastern countries, but also the phenomenon of economic de-borderlization and demographic mobilization in the context of globalization. To fully enjoy her future as a wise member of the global community, Japan should strive to better understand the physical as well as cultural borders.

In this background, our project is future-oriented to overreach the targeted Slavic and Eurasian area studies and apply the accumulated expertise of the area to the world-wide border studies community. The program will also develop comparative schemes and skills of border studies and seek to theorize separate cases in a broader but in a more sophisticated manner.

Finally, our project has plans to offer our research results to policy-making communities, so that they could be better informed and prepared to resolve border-related conflicts and stabilize the de/re-borderlization process for peace and prosperity of the world community.

The SRC is a national collaboration institute, originally obliged to provide services to the Japanese community on Slavic and Eurasian area studies. The SRC is conscious of its responsibility for educating, training, and promoting internationally not only graduate students of Hokkaido University, but also all younger specialists in Japan, East Asia and other areas. Considering the lack of an integrated society on border studies in Japan and dearth of contributions to the world community on border studies, this program has three reasons to be led by the SRC.

First, the SRC, following the 21-COE successful achievements, can invite already existent but fragmented individual researchers on a border-related topic on any area to a united forum and develop collective works in a conscious, theoretical framework of border studies. The SRC, as a unique center for area studies in Japan, is well-situated to create a nation-wide network on border studies throughout areas, and, possibly, create a Japan Association of Border Studies in the foreseeable future. Border studies itself is not well matured yet and needs a solid foundation for integrating fragmental regional facts. To find and indentify a theoretical tool to compare different strokes is urgent. Without this process, border studies, though the materials are rich and suggestive, will easily turn into clumps of waste.

Second, Eurasia and East Asia, particularly Russia and China, have been a vacuum of the “international” community on border studies. The SRC found and collected many border-related topics in that area and discovered that more than a few on-the-site researchers had activated their works. However, this untapped source of expertise is rarely shared with the outside, particularly, with western scholars. Two reason are counted for this “non-discovery”: linguistic barriers (most resources are not available in English) and political barriers (too delicate for study in the former communist borderland). Even the Association for Borderland Studies (ABS) based in the US, the International Boundary Research Unit (IBRU) based in the UK and the Border Region in the Transit (BRIT), the largest international network on border studies, rarely cover the field. Although the program leader, Akihiro Iwashita, has endeavored to introduce these rich sources of border-related expertise to the international research community, organized contributions from the SRC-led program must be more vocal and critical. The SRC, using the rich resources of the international networks it has developed over the past five decades, can realize this aim.

Third, the program puts an emphasis on creating a core of young researchers on border studies by uniting those networks and communities. Most of them, after the five year term of the program, will be encouraged to publish in worldwide periodicals on border issues, such as Journal of Borderland Studies, Boundary Security Bulletin and Europe-Asia Studies. In other words, this program concentrates attention and funding on a relatively small number of promising doctoral candidates and post-doctoral researchers, whose talents and devotion are obvious, rather than widely distributing money. The SRC has also enough experience to encourage younger researchers by utilizing scholarship programs such as the Suzukawa-Nakamura Fund and the ITP (International Training Program for younger researchers, sponsored by JSPS) and to educate graduate students under the regime of the Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University. The educational collaboration with the SRC and Graduate School of the Letters must be focused for educational effectiveness of the program.

Plan for research activities
(a) In the coming five years, this program will establish a new discipline of area studies by collecting local expertise on border studies to create a Japanese academic community and networks on border studies.
(b) Based on field work case studies on each area related with the border-related phenomena and realities, this program will elaborate a new methodology on border studies applicable throughout any area. It will be quite useful for analyzing the twenty-first century world, in which the cognitive crafting by non-state, trans-border actors will play a decisive role.
(c) Within five years, this program will create a core of young specialists in Japan, who will constantly produce brilliant achievements in worldwide journals.

The Program consists of:
Slavic Research Center; Graduate School of Letters; Graduate School of Public Policy; Graduate School of Economics, Graduate School of International Media, Communication, and Tourism Studies; Graduate School of Education; Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies; The Hokkaido University Museum



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