Anthropology is usually considered to be a Western discipline developed by constructing colonial Others in non-Western societies. However, as Akitoshi Shimizu (1999: 115) has argued, if Japan as a non-Western country has its own anthropology, this view cannot be maintained. One, therefore, has to redefine anthropology in a way that goes beyond the dichotomy between the West and non-West, and beyond the Orientalism that has prevailed throughout the history of the discipline. This attempt will lead us to create an open interactive space in which various world anthropologies can meet in order to understand diverse human societies and cultures.
The Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology (formerly the Japanese Society of Ethnology), which is the main association of Japanese socio-cultural anthropologists, currently numbers approximately 2,000 members.1 This is far smaller than the American Anthropological Association (about 11,000 members), but larger than the European Association of Social Anthropologists (about 650 members). In addition, there are about 800 members of the Anthropological Society of Nippon, the association of Japanese biological anthropologists. In other words, the Japanese anthropological community is one of the largest in the world.2 Nevertheless, the achievements of Japanese anthropology are little known outside Japan. Even though there are some reviews of Japanese anthropology available in English, such as the one Chie Nakane wrote in the 1970s (1974), there is still no mention of Japanese anthropology in some of the latest reference works, such as the Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology edited by Barnard and Spencer (1996).
In order to fill this gap, this paper3 first reviews the history of Japanese anthropology since its foundation in 1884 and highlights its distinctive features and achievements. It then examines Japanese anthropology in the wider contexts of world anthropologies, and the main issues which contemporary Japanese anthropology faces. The experience of Japanese anthropology may provide us with some important pointers as to how anthropology can be reshaped as a global discipline.
As for my position in reviewing Japanese anthropology, I have to make it clear that I am not a representative of Japanese anthropology, nor do I wish to be. In terms of disciplinary background I have been greatly influenced by Western anthropologies, especially through studying abroad as a visiting scholar at universities in the United States and Europe,4 although I was educated in Japan and am based there. In terms of area of research, I am a Southeast Asia specialist, as I have carried out my fieldwork mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia. My approach to Japanese anthropology is, therefore, not national but rather transnational. In this sense I am located intellectually somewhere between Japan and the West, or between Japan and Southeast Asia. Just like transnational migrants in the contemporary world, what is important for me is not where I am from, but where I am between (Clifford 1997: 37). The project of a multiplicity of world anthropologies for me derives perhaps from within myself, as an anthropologist based in Japan but with a transnational background.
A Short History of Japanese Anthropology
One can divide the history of Japanese anthropology into five developmental stages: (1) 1884-1913, (2) 1913-1934, (3) 1934-1945, (4) 1945-1964, and (5) from 1964 to the present. The boundaries of these historical stages are somewhat arbitrary, since the actual historical process is of course continuous. In what follows, I highlight briefly the main features of each stage, as I have reviewed this history in more detail elsewhere (Yamashita forthcoming).
(1) Anthropology in Japan started in 1884 when a group of young scholars formed a workshop called Jinruigaku no Tomo or “Friends of Anthropology” (Terada 1981: 7). The founding of this group was stimulated by the theories of Edward Morse, then Professor of Biology at the University of Tokyo. Morse had excavated a shell mound in Tokyo, and had proposed, on the basis of the remains he found there, that there had been cannibalism in ancient Japan. The central figure of the Jinruigaku no Tomo was Shôgorô Tsuboi who was offended by Morse’s thesis of cannibalism in Japan, and so the group advocated that the origins of Japanese culture should be investigated by the Japanese themselves, not by foreign scholars (Shimizu 1999: 126). In this sense Japanese anthropology was born as a product of nationalist consciousness. Two years later the workshop evolved into Tokyo Jinruigakkai (the Anthropological Society of Tokyo), and then Nihon Jinruigakkai (the Anthropological Society of Nippon). Tsuboi became the first professor of anthropology at the University of Tokyo in 1892 after studying anthropology in England for three years. He led the debate on the origins of the Japanese people in early years of the 20th century.
(2) In 1913 Tsuboi died. In the same year, his successor, Ryûzô Torii, published an article in which he argued that “ethnology” (jinshugaku or minzokugaku) should be separate from “anthropology” (jinruigaku) (Torii 1975: 480-483). Because of his extensive field research abroad, Torii was much more concerned with cultures outside Japan’s national boundaries than Tsuboi. Torii carried out his first fieldwork outside Japan in Northeastern China in 1894, followed by research in Taiwan, the Chishima Islands (off Hokkaidô), China, Korea, Eastern Siberia, Manchuria and Mongolia. His fieldwork clearly reflected the colonial expansion of the Japanese Empire into other parts of Asia, including Taiwan in 1895 and Korea in 1910. Torii’s 1913 paper proposed the establishment of a discipline to be called tôyô jinshugaku (literally “the study of the Oriental race”) or tôyô minzokugaku (“Oriental ethnology”). In this way Torii advocated the study of the ethnology of the Orient by Oriental scholars because they were assumed to be in a better position than Western scholars to study these regions (Torii 1975: 482-483).5 The article marked a new historical stage in Japanese anthropology, in which Japan began to observe Others, and not merely to be observed (cf. Shimizu 1999: 116), and in which the object of study shifted from Japanese people to neighboring colonial Others in Asia.
(3) Further Japanese colonial expansion resulted in an interest in a wider geographical area. Japanese colonial power reached Micronesia in 1919, Manchuria in 1933 and Southeast Asia in 1941. As it expanded, the Nihon Minzokugakkai, the Japanese Society of Ethnology, was established in 1934. Interestingly, its establishment was stimulated by the First International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences held in London that same year. As the prospectus for the establishment of the Society tells us: “Ethnology in Japan has had a history of several decades. However, we have not yet reached the international standard… Ethnological studies in Japan have been concerned with native culture and ancient cultural survivals in Japan under the name of minzokugaku (folklore studies). But we have to develop the discipline in comparative perspective with other cultures, to consider the origin and diffusion of culture using the fruits of the development of ethnology in the West. In particular, through participation in the First International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences held in London this summer, we have realized that we should promote ethnological research in Japan. This is the reason why we are reorganizing the former Minzokugakkai (the Society of Folklore Studies) into the Nihon Minzokugakkai (the Japanese Society of Ethnology)6 “(Minzokugaku Shinkôkai 1984: 4).
Two things are important. Firstly, the fact that the Japanese Society of Ethnology was formed under the stimulus of an international congress means that the Society was itself a product of the global development of anthropology during the 1930s. Secondly, the new-born Japanese Society of Ethnology was quite interdisciplinary at the start: the founding members of the Society included specialists from various disciplines such as rural sociology, Oriental history, linguistics, Japanese folklore studies, Japanese classics, comparative religions, and archeology. Kurakichi Shiratori, the founding father of Oriental history in Japan, was the first president.
However, a year later, in 1935, Kunio Yanagita founded the Minkandenshô no kai (“Folklore Workshop”), which specialized in Japanese folkways and later developed into the Japanese Society of Folklore Studies. Here anthropology took a more nationalist turn. As a result the group of scholars specializing in Japanese folklore studies (or Volkskunde in German) became separated from those specializing in comparative or foreign ethnology (or Völkerkunde in German). This division of labor between nationalist and internationalist anthropologists in Japan continues up to the present.
In 1943, the Institute of Ethnic Research (Minzoku Kenkyûsho) was established under the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture to carry out research that could contribute to the ethnic policies of the Empire. Major Japanese ethnologists at that time were involved in this Institute, though its history is still largely unclear (Nakao 1997). The life of the Institute, however, was very short: it was closed at the end of the War, in 1945.
(4) After the war Japan lost its colonies. The regional concerns of Japanese ethnology were once more confined to Japan. The defeat also raised the issue of the national character of the Japanese people. The Japanese translation of Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword was published in 1946, selling millions of copies over the years. In 1948 a workshop on the origins of the Japanese nation was organized by Eiichirô Ishida. This workshop attracted considerable public attention; the general public found Namio Egami’s thesis that the imperial family had originated from the northern Asian horse riding peoples in Korea particularly sensational. Anthropological fieldwork in this period was basically limited to peoples on the fringes of Japan, such as the Ainu in Hokkaidô and Okinawans in the Ryûkyû Islands.
(5) In 1964, the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo. This was also the year when restrictions on overseas travel for Japanese were removed. These events marked the end of the post-war period. Japan entered into a period of rapid economic growth and overseas economic expansion. In parallel with this, Japanese anthropology once again focused on other cultures outside Japan, while interest in Japanese culture decreased. The mainstream of current Japanese anthropology has continued to move in this direction.
Looking at this historical process, several things can be noted. First, Japanese anthropology started as the search for the origins of the Japanese, and of Japanese culture, in response to the theories of a foreign researcher. This gave Japanese anthropology the character of a nationalist project to clarify the nature of the Japanese rather than the whole of mankind. This research paradigm remained popular until the 1970s.
Second, Japan had a history of colonization in Asia and the Pacific, and Japanese anthropology developed as part of this colonial experience. This history was similar to that of Western anthropology, though Japanese anthropologists saw their colonial Others in a distinctive way to which I will turn later. In this perspective, comparisons were made with other parts of Asia, in order to clarify the origins of the Japanese people and Japanese culture.
Third, the regional concerns of Japanese anthropology have varied historically, depending on the fluctuating boundaries of the Japanese nation and Japanese influence in the wider world. Analyzing the articles of Minzokugaku-kenkyu (The Japanese Journal of Ethnology) from 1935 to 1995, Teruo Sekimoto (1996: 138-139) has pointed out a centrifugal trend within Japanese anthropology: in the course of modern history, Japanese anthropologists have tended to study the Others in frontier or peripheral areas in relation to Japan’s national boundaries in each period. During the colonial period, this meant that they studied Taiwan, Korea or Micronesia, while during the early post-war period when travel was difficult they concentrated on Hokkaidô or Okinawa. Since 1964, they have been concerned with cultures increasingly distant from Japan, in parallel with Japan’s economic expansion into the remotest parts of the world. It was during this period that Japanese anthropology became “anthropology in a global perspective” (Shimizu 1999: 161), extending beyond both the Japanese nation and its former empire in the Asia Pacific region. The interests of Japanese anthropologists now extend to Africa and Latin America, areas of little importance for the Japanese economy.
In short, the history of Japanese anthropology reflects Japan’s changing position in the modern world system, with the result that Japanese anthropology has at times adopted a different emphasis from that in the West.
Nationality and Transnationality in Anthropological Traditions in Japan
Anthropology in the West has been commonly defined as the study of Others and other cultures. As we have seen, anthropology in Japan started from an interest in Japanese identity and Japanese culture.7 Later, in parallel with modern Japan’s colonial expansion into the Asian and Pacific regions, Japanese anthropological interests extended to the colonized areas, but still often in search of clues to understanding the cultural roots of Japan by research into cultural similarities. As we have seen, Japanese anthropology at this stage was redefined by Torii as “Oriental ethnology.” This characterization of Japanese anthropology was based on the assumption that Japanese were able to understand other Asian peoples and cultures better than Westerners, because the Japanese were also Asians.
However, there was also an element of “Orientalism” in Japanese anthropology. By seeing its Asian and Pacific colonies as “backward” and “primitive,” Japan could strengthen its claim to be seen as an “advanced” and “civilized” country on a part with the Western world (cf. Kang 1996, Kawamura 1993, Yamashita forthcoming). In this regard, it may be interesting to consider the difference in anthropological stance between the West and Japan in the study of Southeast Asia. For instance, in studying the cultures and societies of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), the Dutch anthropologists in the 1930s developed a form of structuralism, an attempt to understand the principles of the “human mind” which foreshadowed Lévi-Straussian structuralism in the 1960s. In contrast, the Japanese Society of Ethnology carried out a research project in the late 1950s to search for the origins of Japanese culture in mainland Southeast Asia, particularly in the rice cultivation zone of Indochina. This had been a preoccupation of Japanese anthropology from its inception (Minzoku Bunka Sôgô Chôsadan ed. 1959).
Despite this, Japanese anthropology is also transnational. From the beginning, Japanese anthropologists were very keen to learn from anthropological theories developed in the West. Tsuboi, the founding ancestor of modern Japanese anthropology, went to England to study the discipline before he was appointed professor of anthropology at the University of Tokyo. Torii, the initiator of Oriental ethnology in Japan, did not study in the West, but Oka, a key figure in Japanese ethnology during wartime and postwar periods, did: in Vienna, he studied the ideas of the German and Austrian school of historical ethnology, which he used to reconstruct the various stages of ethnic and cultural history in Japan through comparison with the Asian and Pacific regions.
In colonial Taiwan, Inezô Utsushiwaka, Professor of Ethnology (dozokugaku) at Taihoku (Taipei) Imperial University, was a Harvard graduate who studied with Roland Dixon. His student, Tôichi Mabuchi, who became a leading anthropologist in postwar Japan, did his fieldwork among the aboriginal peoples of the Taiwan Highlands under the influence of Western socio-cultural theories of the period. He also had a life-long interest in Dutch anthropology because of his involvement in research in Indonesia under Japanese occupation (1942-45).
In Japanese Micronesia, Kenichi Sugiura carried out fieldwork on the land tenure system in the late 1930s and early 1940s, under the influence of Bronislaw Malinowski’s functionalism. In colonial Korea, Takashi Akiba, professor of sociology at Keijô (Seoul) Imperial University, carried out research on shamanism using a Durkheimian perspective gained from studying in Europe. His student, Seiichi Izumi, who became another leading anthropologist after World War II, carried out his fieldwork on Jeju Island off the southern tip of Korean Peninsula, drawing inspiration from Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific.
It is therefore wrong to consider Japanese anthropology as an isolated phenomenon: it has developed along with anthropology in the rest of the world. The Japanese Society of Ethnology itself, as mentioned above, was formed under the stimulus of an international meeting in London. Furthermore, the colonial model was also translocal. As Van Bremen and Shimizu have pointed out: “In Japan research in French Indo-China served as a model for the first series of governmental studies that were made of Okinawa. In turn, these studies together with models taken from research in British India … inspired the research projects that were subsequently carried out in Taiwan. In their turn, the Taiwanese studies served as a model for research projects carried out in Korea and Manchuria” (1999: 8).
The Position of Japanese Anthropology in the Academic World System: Does Japanese Anthropology Exist?
As to the position of Japanese anthropology and its influence, Takami Kuwayama (forthcoming) has argued for what he calls the “world system” of anthropology. According to him, the core or center of this system is occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France, which have the power to determine which kinds of knowledge are most desired in anthropology. These countries dictate the nature of the anthropological discourse that scholars from peripheral countries must use if they wish to be recognized. Within this framework of core and periphery, Kuwayama characterizes Japanese anthropology as “semi-peripheral”: it is peripheral in relation to the West, but central in relation to other parts of Asia.
There have been criticisms of this argument. Van Bremen, for example, has criticized Kuwayama for “the excessive weight given to center-periphery relations and positions and the static view taken of them” (Van Bremen 1997: 62; see also Kuwayama forthcoming). The binary opposition of center and periphery looks static if one considers the two to be substantive entities. In reality, however, it is often difficult to determine where the center is. For instance, there often appears to be a center/periphery division within the center itself. Some universities in the United States, the most powerful core country in anthropology, may actually be more peripheral than the University of Tokyo or other leading institutions in Japan.
There is also the fact that today there are many students and teachers from peripheral areas in the anthropology departments of U.S. universities. For example, at the University of California at Berkeley, one of the most powerful anthropology departments in the world, there were faculty members from Africa, China, Japan, Malaysia and elsewhere during my stay as a visiting professor there from 1998 to 1999. A similar situation can be found at other major centers such as Harvard and Chicago. In reverse, there are also many scholars with PhD’s from universities in Europe and America who teach anthropology at Asian universities, in places such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and increasingly Japan. Furthermore, globalization and internet communication have both tended to make the center/periphery opposition increasingly meaningless: close neighbors and the furthest parts of the world are the same distance away in cyberspace. The center and periphery are currently intermingled in very complex ways.
Nevertheless, there are still national boundaries in scholarship. Among them, the most critical structural problem for Japanese anthropology in the anthropological world system is perhaps the boundary of language. Japanese anthropologists practice mainly in Japanese, a minor language in terms of international academic communication. They are well aware of the main trends in Western core anthropology: the references cited in Minzokugaku-kenkyu are mostly of Western literature. Students are required to read works in English and other European languages, in addition to Japanese. However, articles by Japanese scholars are mostly written in Japanese, which makes access difficult for non-Japanese readers. In this respect, Japanese anthropology, unlike the Japanese economy, imports too much and exports too little.
In his article, “Japanese Cultural Anthropology Viewed from Outside,” Jerry Eades (1994), a British-born social anthropologist based in Japan since 1991, asks why Japanese anthropology has not had more impact outside Japan, despite the number of anthropologists and the volume of research they carry out. He argues that part of the answer lies in the institutional processes by which Japanese research and publications are produced. Japanese students and researchers generally do not compete with their Western counterparts in their academic careers. Writing in a foreign language does not necessarily help in getting a job in a Japanese university, and so they write in Japanese for the Japanese market. Japanese anthropology in this sense forms a sort of closed island with its own audience.
This difference in audience sometimes creates divisions, and sometimes conflicts, between Japanese and foreign anthropologies. Gordon Mathews, an American anthropologist specializing in Japan and teaching in Hong Kong, has examined the differences between Japanese and American depictions of Japan. He notes that “what an American audience, professional or lay, seeks to know about Japan will likely be very different from what a Japanese audience seeks to know.” Therefore, the very same topic that may interest an American audience may be boring for a Japanese audience. He also points out that “very few American researchers pay attention to the research conducted by Japanese folk life specialists, looking for remnants of Japanese traditions; this research is for the most part completely outside American interests.” This, he argues, leads to an imbalance in intellectual power relations between American and Japanese anthropology. Japanese anthropologists act as if they belong to a colonized country, rarely researching the metropolis (the United States) but importing American and European theories to use in their own work. (Mathews forthcoming)
The problem, then, goes back again to the question of the power relations in the academic “world system” which Kuwayama stresses. In his paper on “native anthropologists,” he examines the discord between foreign and native anthropologists with special reference to Japanese studies inside and outside Japan, and points out that it is derived from the structure of the production of knowledge in the “world system” of anthropology rather than from personal and emotional conflicts (1997). In this system, Japanese anthropology lies in the shadow cast by Western hegemony. This raises another vital question: does Japanese anthropology exist at all as a distinctive entity?
Before answering this question, let me mention briefly my own experience of differences in perception between American and Japanese anthropologists. In 1993 Eades and I organized a session called “The dynamics of identity fabrication: The interplay of local, national and global perspectives” at the annual meeting of American Anthropological Association held in Washington D.C.. The session dealt with issues of cultural identity in Japan, Indonesia, India, and Egypt, and did not focus exclusively on Japan. Nevertheless, in the audience I recognized a number of Japan specialists who had come to see “Japanese” anthropologists. During the discussion, we were asked by a member of the audience what was the “Japanese twist” 8 in anthropology. We were perplexed by this question because our session was not concerned with “Japanese” anthropology as such. We had thought that we were simply practicing anthropology. However, our American colleagues saw us as “Japanese” anthropologists.
After returning to Japan in 1994 I organized a panel called “Does Japanese ethnology exist?” at the annual meeting of the Japanese Society of Ethnology in order to answer the question that had been posed at the AAA in the previous year. Motomitsu Uchibori, the chairperson of the panel, summarized the conclusion reached as follows (Uchibori 1995): The use of the phrase, “Japanese anthropology,” refers to two main bodies of work. The first consists of Japanese studies of their own society and culture, including the type of work known as nihonjinron (discussions of the nature of Japanese identity), a genre very popular in Japan. One of the best-known examples is Chie Nakane’s book, Japanese Society, which made the author famous internationally, even though her original fieldwork was carried out in India, not in Japan. The second is the research of Japanese scholars carried out in the rest of the world, and how this relates to the rest of the “world system” of anthropology. It is here that Japanese research is often perceived as peripheral. The peripheral nature of Japanese anthropology in relation to the Western anthropological center is not so much a problem of institutions as of language, as was mentioned. The question of what language to write in is much more than an individual choice. It is related to the identity of Japanese anthropologists that oscillates between two poles: the anthropological academic universe on the one hand, and the local world in which they live on the other. It would be absurd for Japanese anthropologists to publish all their papers in English, because anthropological inquiry involves internal motivation that is rooted in the local world. For Japanese anthropologists, therefore, there is no other way than to write in Japanese if they wish to reflect their Japanese identity. If Japanese anthropology exists at all, it is based on the identity of the Japanese anthropologists.
Identity, however, is quite a complex thing: it can be multiple rather than single. Kirin Narayan argues against the fixity of a distinction between “native” and “non-native” anthropologists and suggests: “We might more profitably view each anthropologist in terms of shifting identifications amid a field of interpenetrating communities and power relations” (1993: 671). Referring to the “enactment of hybridity,” he points out that “we are all incipiently bi-(or multi-) cultural in that we belong to worlds both personal and professional, whether in the field or at home” (ibid.: 681). In this perspective, it may be unproductive to stick to the dichotomy between Japanese anthropology and Western anthropology. What is important is to create a common space in which anthropologies in the contemporary world can meet for the future.
Japanese Anthropology in the Contemporary World
Anthropology today is at a critical juncture. This is the case in Japan as well. In particular, in studying and teaching anthropology, students and teachers often find difficulties in relating their contemporary interests to classical theories in the discipline. In these situations, how do we reproduce anthropological knowledge for the future? In order to look at this problem against the background of changing social needs today, in 2000 the Japanese Society of Ethnology set up a committee to examine anthropological education in contemporary Japan. I was the chairperson of this committee, and we examined issues such as education in anthropology at major Japanese universities, anthropology textbooks, anthropology job market, and institutional restructuring. Our findings can be summarized as follows.
(1) The niche of anthropology
We have to develop an academic niche in order to meet new social needs in the contemporary world. The main interests of anthropologists have shifted over time: the historical reconstruction of human culture in the late 19th century; the structural functional analysis of culture and society in the first half of the 20th century; Lévi-Straussian structuralism, Victor Turner’s ritual process and the Geertzian interpretation of cultures in the 1960s and 1970s; as well as contemporary issues such as “development,” “medicine,” “education,” “ethnic conflict,” “globalization,” “identity,” and even “September 11.” Research into contemporary issues, what was once labeled “applied anthropology,” has become the basic anthropology of today. It is urgent, then, that we develop an academic niche which is relevant to radical changes in the contemporary world (cf. Ahmed and Shore eds. 1995). In studying the contemporary world, however, anthropology may overlap with other disciplines such as sociology or cultural studies.9 What is peculiar to anthropology is its approach to the subject of research and its way of understanding human reality. In this respect, we must remain committed to our method of ethnographic participant observation in relation to a specific community or cultural practice, because most of the other social sciences have tended to adopt statistical methods based on quantitative data. In other words, anthropology is the only discipline that still tries to construct socio-cultural theory through participant observation in the micro social worlds in which people live.
(2) The matrix of teaching
In parallel with the change of interests in anthropology in recent years, the subjects that anthropologists study have diversified. In these situations, how can anthropology retain its integrity and identity as a unified academic discipline? To answer the question, we have to try to relate the primitive to the civilized, the traditional to the modern, the periphery to the center, and classic anthropological knowledge to the contemporary world by looking at the two elements of each dichotomy, not as different worlds, but as two segments of the same modern world system. What is important, then, is to connect classic and contemporary topics of research with each other. In so doing, we have to explore areas of research that link these segments of the world system, for instance, as Raymond Firth (1992: 211) once pointed out, “development in Tikopia society” and “questions of kinship in some sectors of modern London.”
(3) The pluralization of the discipline
It is inevitable that anthropology will become interdisciplinary, because the objects of our research are complicated phenomena that can be analyzed only by using a combination of disciplinary approaches. If we study “development,” we require knowledge of macro-level political economy, government policy, and regional sociology. This is related to the job market as well. Jobs specifically for anthropologists are becoming fewer these days in Japan. Instead, there are a growing number of positions in gender studies, development studies, area studies and so on, all of which stress interdisciplinary research. At the University of Tokyo the Department of Cultural Anthropology now belongs to a larger unit called “Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies,” since the restructuring of the graduate school in 1996. Generally, in Japan it is quite rare for anthropology to constitute an independent department; usually it is integrated into wider interdisciplinary departments with labels such as “International Cultural Studies,” “Global Social Sciences,” or “Asian and African Studies.” This situation is sometimes good for the discipline because we can carry out interdisciplinary research and teaching on the contemporary world in accordance with the complexity of the research topics. But it may also mean that we lose our own anthropological identity through the process of diversification and research into an increasingly wide range of topics.
(4) The internationalization of the discipline
Anthropology is in principle an international science. However, our anthropological practices usually have national boundaries and we do not yet have a “global anthropology.” That is why we need to internationalize the discipline.10 This has actually already been happening in the classroom. Japan now has many students from foreign countries. At the University of Tokyo, approximately 40 percent of the graduate school students are from abroad, mostly from East Asian countries such as China, Korea and Taiwan. In my graduate seminar in 2002, six of the twelve students registered were from foreign countries, including China, Korea, Taiwan, Hungary, and the Netherlands. We also have visiting scholars and professors from various parts of the world, and the job market in Japan is opening up to foreigners as well.11 It is within these transnational situations that we have to reshape anthropology.
(5) Applied anthropology
We are exploring the use of anthropological knowledge in a wider range of contexts, including practical fields such as international development agencies, public sector institutions that promote intercultural understanding, and non-profit organizations involved in social and cultural issues. For instance, JAICA (the Japan International Cooperation Agency) was established in 1974 to promote the Japanese ODA (Official Development Assistance) program. This often requires anthropological expertise, and some anthropologists have worked with this program. Further, the number of students who want to work in practical sectors is increasing. Although this field is not as fully developed in Japan as in the United States or Europe, it seems that this is potentially a major source of employment for anthropologists.
Following on from this committee, Jerry Eades and I organized a session called “The reproduction of anthropological knowledge and the East Asian future” at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in 2002 in New Orleans to discuss the issue in wider contexts of East Asian anthropological future. For this purpose, Joseph Bosco of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Kim Kwang-Ok of Seoul National University were invited to present papers on Hong Kong and Korea respectively, in addition to Japan. We recognized that anthropologies in Asia are clearly different from one another because of differences in historical background, as well as differences in the social position of anthropology in each country.
On the other hand, William Kelly of Yale University pointed out that there were a lot of problems that were shared across national boundaries. He e-mailed me after the meeting: “what most struck me was how similar are Japan and US anthropologies. All five features that you emphasize as challenges to Japanese anthropology face us as well and serve as foci of debate. This is just a random and immediate thought, but perhaps at some point, it might be interesting to think a bi-national panel that would take these five points as a basis and organize the session as a series of presentations on each of the five points, with each presentation done as a collaboration or dialogue by a Japan anthropologist and a U.S. anthropologist!” (personal correspondence, 2002).
The problems we are facing today are, therefore, not only problems for Japanese anthropologists, but also for U.S. anthropologists and perhaps for anthropologists in the rest of the world. This might lead us to a kind of “interactive anthropology” at the global level, a position that I advocate below. However, before proceeding to the global level, it may be necessary to consider the regional possibility of an Asian network of anthropologists, because Asia is the area with which Japanese anthropology has been most deeply and most intensively concerned.
Beyond Orientalism: An Asian Network of Anthropologists
Among anthropologists in Asia there has been very limited communication or cooperation so far. In his discussion of relations on the periphery of the anthropological world system, Kuwayama (fortcoming) quoted Gerholm and Hannerz. According to them, “the map of the discipline shows a prosperous mainland of British, American, and French anthropologies, and outside it an archipelago of large and small islands -- some of them connected to the mainland by sturdy bridges or frequent ferry traffic, others rather isolated” (Gerholm and Hannerz 1982: 7). In this anthropological world map, the residents of the peripheral islands always look towards the central mainland rather than to each other. This metaphor is also applicable to the case of Asia.
In 1995, a symposium entitled “Cultural anthropology and Asia: the past, the present and the future” was organized at the annual meeting of the Japanese Society of Ethnology at Osaka. The aim was to discuss the place of cultural anthropology in the Asian region and to pursue the possibility of regional cooperation in the region. Asian anthropologists from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia participated, and Nur Yalmann of Harvard University, who is himself of Turkish origin, gave the keynote speech. This was the first attempt to bring together Asian anthropologists at the annual meeting of the Japanese Society of Ethnology.
There are also research exchange programs at Japanese universities and research institutions, including the National Museum of Ethnology at Osaka, one of the most important centers for anthropological research in Japan. There are a number of joint research projects supported financially by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Japan Foundation, Toyota Foundation and others. The Asia Center of the Japan Foundation was established in 1995 especially to promote mutual understanding between Asian peoples and cultures. Furthermore, Japanese universities have pursued the international exchange of students much more actively than before. Given this trend, we can propose several possibilities for future cooperation among Asian anthropologists.
First, as was pointed out previously, Japanese anthropology in the colonial past resulted in a Japanese version of Orientalism, in which the peoples of Asia were seen in negative terms as dojin or “indigenous peoples.” Shifting perceptions of Asia within anthropology could be examined by Japanese and other Asian scholars as a joint project on the history of colonialism in Asia. Japan appeared “Asian” in relation to the West, but it practiced a sort of Orientalism towards other Asians during the colonial period. In order to overcome the tendency towards “Orientalization” within anthropology, we have to discuss it together with Asian colleagues.
Second, the recent growth of Japanese anthropology, and especially the increase in fieldwork carried out in Asia, is closely related to Japanese economic expansion during the postwar period. “Understanding other cultures” became more necessary as the influence of the Japanese economy expanded. This does not mean that anthropology is once more playing a role in Japanese expansionism. However, it may be possible to investigate the differences between Japanese anthropology and other Asian anthropologies, in the same way as the gap between Japanese and American anthropologies discussed by Mathews. For example, Japanese anthropology has shown less concern for development issues than some other Asian anthropologies. This gap has to be bridged if we are to develop academic exchanges.
Third, it is clear that anthropology in each Asian country has its own national characteristics. What kind of proposals, then, can we in Asia make to address the postcolonial situation of anthropology in the contemporary world? This is what we will be debating together with Asian colleagues in the near future. In order to answer these questions, we need to develop an Asian network of anthropologists, though this has not yet been realized. If it were to be set up, it could hold regular meeting, like the European Association of Social Anthropologists that developed in the late 1980s. Common problems that we are now facing in Asian regions could be discussed, such as development, the environment, migration or ethnic conflict, and it would enable us to send messages from Asia to the rest of the world, rather than just receiving messages from the centers of North America and Europe.
Beyond the Center/Periphery Dichotomy: Toward Interactive Anthropology
In fact, at the session entitled “Anthropology: a critical review from Japan” which Jerry Eades and I organized in the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association held in San Francisco in 1996, we discussed future links between Asian anthropologists. Our discussant, Stanley Tambiah, warned about the dangers of isolationism in Asian anthropology, which might be harmful to the development of a world anthropology. Of course we do not want to be isolationist. We are not advocating Asian anthropology in opposition to Western anthropology. Rather, we are seeking for the possibility of “interactive anthropology” by taking Asia as a test case.
On this issue, the Japanese Society of Ethnology set up a special committee to promote international links in 1996. The Society has already attempted to internationalize by inviting distinguished scholars to the annual meetings: David Maybury-Lewis (1995), Benedict Anderson (1996), Stanley Tambiah (1997), Marshall Sahlins and Richard Fox (1998), and D. F. Eichelman (1999). Even though it is useful to listen to major scholars from the center, we also think that it is important to organize substantive meetings on particular topics in Japan together with overseas scholars, and also to participate in overseas meetings so that Japanese scholars can gain exposure to the international anthropological community.
In order to widen these efforts to internationalize the Society, a new journal in English, The Japanese Review of Cultural Anthropology, was started in 1998, to provide a channel of communication and to make Japanese anthropology more visible in the international community. This is only one of a series of recent initiatives. To mention just two others, a new journal entitled Asian Anthropology, was established in 2002, published by Chinese University Press for the Hong Kong Anthropological Society and the Department of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Jerry Eades and myself have started a monograph series with Berghahn Publishers, Asian Anthropologies, also aimed at Asian scholars. The reason for these initiatives is that anthropologists based in Asia wish to have their voices heard within the wider community of anthropology. These attempts will form the basis of an interactive anthropology. In this way, we want to create anthropologies beyond national boundaries in Asia.
Furthermore, we should create an open academic forum to develop interactive anthropology in the global level. Following Kuwayama, by “open” I mean “the kind of representation that posits a diverse audience, both native and non-native, which contrasts with the ‘closed’ representation that has assumed, as in the past, a homogeneous audience from one’s own cultural community”(1997: 541). For this purpose, as Kuwayama also suggested, we may need to have a new journal, “in which native scholars comment on articles by non-native scholars, who in turn reply to the comments they have received, thereby, re-conceptualizing their ethnographic observations in both native and non-native contexts” (ibid.).
However, the major problem for Japanese anthropologists remains that of language. We know that few foreigners can read works written in Japanese, apart from specialists on Japan. This is the case not only with American and European audiences, but even with audiences in other countries of Asia. On the other hand, if we write in English, Japanese readers are reluctant to read us. Furthermore, by writing in English, we may simply play along with Western academic hegemony, because the modes of thinking and presentation differ according to language. We Japanese are handicapped in this respect, because we lack experience both in speaking and writing English, the language of hegemony, and in the Western styles of presentation and publication. But, we do not want to close up the country, and in any case this is no longer an option in this transnational age. There will be no future for Japanese and Asian anthropology without a transnational and global perspective in which we can create our anthropology by negotiating our identities with others, just as is the case with other cultural practices in our age.
In his paper titled “Anthropological Futures,” Adam Kuper (1994: 115) suggested the importance of developments in anthropology outside the Western metropolitan centers. Japanese anthropology is one such non-Western anthropology with its own history and its own character. However, as we have seen in this paper, the meaning of “own” may be quite complicated. If Japan has its own anthropology, it is only so within this complexity; and if the experiences of Japanese anthropology discussed in this paper can provide us with some important insights into ways of reshaping anthropology in the future, it is also within the context of this complex nature of Japanese anthropology.
The focal point of this reshaping is to create and develop a sort of open forum in which various anthropologies in the world can meet together on equal footing. There are two points to note. First, while admitting the hegemonic role of Western anthropology, one also needs to emphasize that the gaze from the periphery strengthens the system academically. Peripherals can play a positive and critical role, and this is important especially in the world that now exists after September 11, 2001. We, as the anthropological others for the West-centered academic world system, should play a more assertive role in helping to create a global anthropology, rather than simply criticizing Western hegemony.
Second, although anthropological traditions in the world may vary between countries, we have to also stress that anthropology is also transnational. Throughout its history, Japanese anthropology has not been an isolated phenomenon, but rather a product of the intersection of various anthropological traditions in the world. This multiplex and hybrid identity of Japanese anthropology may be important because an open forum of world anthropologies should not consist of representatives of national but of transnational anthropologists who are located somewhere in between. In this sense the anthropology of the future will be constructed on the basis of the “glocal” (cf. Robertson 1995), namely “global-local” interaction.
1 In April 2004 the Japanese Society of Ethnology changed its name to the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology. The main reason for the change was that “cultural anthropology” is much more extensively used than “ethnology” (or “social anthropology”) in contemporary Japanese society. In Japan, socio-cultural anthropology and biological anthropology form separate associations, with no single umbrella association to link them.
2 The Anthropology Newsletter of the American Anthropological Association (Vol. 43, No.8, November 2002, p.10) mentions the work of the Japanese Society of Ethnology and the Anthropological Society of Nippon to promote ties with other anthropological organizations across the globe.
3 This paper draws on material from a paper co-authored with Joseph Bosco and Jerry Eades (Yamashita, Bosco and Eades forthcoming), together with an earlier book review article on anthropology and colonialism in Asia and Oceania (Yamashita 2001), and a paper presented at the AAA annual meeting in New Orleans in November 2002 (Yamashita 2002).
4 I was a visiting scholar at Cornell University from July1981 to March 1983, at Cambridge University, England, from April to July 1983, and at the University of California at Berkeley for a year from September 1998 to August 1999.
5 During this period, Torii was associated with Department of the Oriental History of the University of Tokyo, founded by the historian Kurakichi Shiratori, the founder of tôyô shigaku or “Oriental history” in Japan (cf. Tanaka 1993). I presume that Torii established his “Oriental ethnology” under Shiratori’s influence.
6 Rather confusingly, there are two words pronounced minzokugaku in Japanese, though they are written differently in Chinese characters. Minzokugaku can therefore mean either “ethnology” or “folklore studies,” depending on the characters used.
7 Generally speaking, anthropologists in non-Western countries study their own countries rather than foreign others. Malaysian anthropologists, for instance, study Malaysians, and Indonesian anthropologists study Indonesians. This is different from Western colonial anthropology, in which the British studied Malaysians and the Dutch studied Indonesians as colonial Others. Japan combines both traditions, with a flourishing school of research on Japan, particularly in folklore, coexisting with anthropological research outside Japan which arose out of colonialism.
8 On the word “twist,” Kumayama (1997: 521) notes that it may imply the “inauthentic” character of Japanese anthropology as compared with the “authentic” Western anthropology.
9 Lévi-Strauss (1967: 344) pointed out some fifty years ago that anthropology is not distinguished from the other human and social sciences by an area of study which is peculiar to it alone.
10 At the AAA in 2001 in Washington D.C., a panel called "Institutionalizing the discipline of anthropology in international arenas”was organized by Judith Freiburg and June Nash. This may have been an attempt to internationalize American anthropology especially after the events of September 11. For a cynical criticism of this panel, see Brian Moeran (2002).
11 One might mention here the development of the AJJ (Anthropologists of Japan in Japan) network, which consists mainly of foreign scholars working in Japan, together with some Japanese scholars trained overseas. It currently has between 60 and 70 regular participants.
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