Project Announcement

First published: July 12, 2015

Last Modified: July 13, 2015

Author: NAKANO Satoshi (Professor of History, Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Social Sciences)

Developing International Research and Education Program on the Asia-Pacific War History: Comparison and Synthesis

Project Announcement

The following is the project announcement of the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) sponsored by Japan Society for Promotion of Science (hereafter JSPS) by the project leader, Prof. NAKANO Satoshi of Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Social Sciences.

Purpose of research

This project aims to develop international and multi-disciplinary research and education program on “the Asia-Pacific War” from the perspectives to compare and synthesize the subject as a major incident in the global history of war and violence. The major pillars of  the project are (1) holding series of international research and education seminars under the title of “Asia Pacific War: History, Comparison, and Synthesis”; (2) compilation, translation, and publication of important historical documents relating to Asia-Pacific War in English for the use of undergraduate/ graduate classes and development of a sample graduate/ undergraduate coursework in English; and (3) recruiting young scholars joining the project and training them. Through these activities this project attempt to make better known the Asia-Pacific War studies in Japan internationally and to prepare a new dimension in the Asia-Pacific War studies with the next generation research scholars.

Definition of “Asia-Pacific War”: In addition to the Asia-Pacific War 1941-1945 in a narrower sense, this project considers this term more comprehensively as a research and education field, which includes the pre-war period of Japanese and world history and the post war problems (processes of decolonization, cold war, inquires on justice, compensation, commemoration, reconciliation, trauma, understandings of history).

(1) “The Asia-Pacific War” Studies in Japan need to fortify the comparative viewpoint and the communicative competence

Historical studies of “the Asia-Pacific War” have brought fruitful results through collaborative researches since 1990s, and besides, a number of empirical researches have been published following the discoveries of new materials and the use of them (for example, Iwanami Lecture Series- Asia-Pacific War, 8 volumes, Tokyo: Iwanami 2005-2006, The Series: Questioning the War Experience, Tokyo: Iwanami, 2010- ). At the same time, they need an effort to overcome their weak points related to each other; the weak impacts at the international level and the lack of the viewpoint of the comparative history. i)  The studies on “the Asia-Pacific War” have accumulated useful knowledge about the problems caused by repeated war and violence in modern and contemporary world. Despite their potential, their research results had not been sufficiently shared with foreign researchers or with different fields. This is also the reason why the Asia-Pacific War history lacks the comparative viewpoint; the comparative study between Japan and Germany in the frame of the World War II such as about the war crimes and the war-crimes tribunals of the Japanese Army and German Armed Force remains to have more examination; the perspective to reconsider the Asia-Pacific War as an issue among the problems of “Truth and Reconciliation” — the cause and the structure of war, legal justice, trauma of the victims and the assailants, the construction on public memory in museums and memorials, the institutionalized reconciliation on the historical events or its lack— including other cases of mass violence in modern and contemporary world (for example, war violence in the Yugoslavia Conflict and genocide in Rwanda). Therefore it is required today to investigate the war and violence in modern and contemporary world not only focusing on the particularity of each case but also questioning its universality with the comparative and synthesizing viewpoint, and also to produce the international platform for the research and education from the comparative viewpoint. ii)             The conflicts caused by different understanding of history become a critical issue in the international relations in East Asia, where in the age of globalization the economy of the countries deeply interdepends and interpersonal exchanges have expanded dramatically on the one hand, their nationalism clashes more seriously on the other hand. Japanese universities have advanced their internationalization since a decade accepting students from different countries. In this current of globalization, the Asia-Pacific War studies as a research and education field remains to be carefully developed. The campus with multinational students can become a place to recover and establish a common ground to share the experience of the Asia-Pacific War as “common knowledge”, which citizens living in international society need to acquire. This project tries to contribute to our society by publishing a textbook and creating an education program with a syllabus in English as the first foreign language for students of most countries. From the above two aspects, this project intends to internationalize the Asia-Pacific War in both research and education with the leading studies of the subject accumulated in Japan. For this purpose, this project firstly emphasize the comparative viewpoint so as to consider the Asia-Pacific War in the problems of the modern and contemporary war and violence, secondly develop learning materials of the Asia-Pacific War as “common knowledge” for undergraduate/graduate coursework in universities at home and abroad so that students and teachers share the subject beyond disciplines and their nationalities.

(2) Project background: From case studies to the comparative research and the education program

This research project bases on the accumulated works through the collaborative researches and the existing human network developed through preceding projects that the principal investigator participated in as director or co-directors, especially, “The truths and memories of ‘Battle of Manila’: an area studies for peace”(Scientific Research (B) Overseas Academic Research 2007-2010) and “Synthesis and comparative studies on mass violence in Asia-Pacific War and modern world” (Scientific Research (B) General 2011-2013) – the both two projects was led by the principal investigator of this project. The first project examined with interdisciplinary approaches and the synthetic viewpoint both the facts and memories of the Battle of Manila in February 1941, the largest city battle in the Asia-Pacific War in which Japanese military committed atrocities and mass mortality of civilians were caused. The latter project analysed and investigated the viewpoints and the methods of comparative study that would allow us to analyze the violence in modern and contemporary world. In order to promote exchange between Japanese researchers of Asia-Pacific War and researchers abroad or of other disciplines, the two projects organized workshops in various locations (at Hitotsubashi University several times since December 2012, at Ateneo de Manila University in March 2008, at George Washington University in November 2011, at University of Hawaii in March 2010, Hangyang University in November 2011, University of Paris III in November, Nanjing University in March 2012, University of Oviedo in February 2013, French Japanese Interdisciplinary Dialogue at Hitotsubashi University in September 2012). The series of workshops helped networking, in addition, the principal investigator of the projects have expanded the network during the stay in George Washington University as a Fulbright researcher (September 2013-August 2014). The research stay offered an opportunity to exchange ideas on this project with Dr.Yang Daqing who organized the Memory and Reconciliation of the Asia-Pacific War Project and to participate in symposiums and discuss with other researchers living in USA, specialists of Japanese history, genocide, war-crime tribunal in Germany and other subjects. The principal investigator has also started a class titled “Studies in Contemporary History” in English and Japanese since October 2014 keeping in mind a design of the sample coursework to be developed in this project. Employing the preceding research experiences and the established network, the budget scale of Scientific Research (A) will be required to advance the project to internationalize the Asia-Pacific War and fortify the comparative studies. This project concentrates the resources to pursue its main activities: organizing the seminar series in Japan and abroad and developing learning materials and the sample coursework in English. This direct approach will be the most effective and efficient to achieve the purpose of this research and to respond to actual requirements of the international society.

(3) Expected results and impacts

International Seminars for the research and education of the Asia-Pacific War: The seminar series will be organized in Japan and abroad. The principal investigator and co-investigators, internal and external research collaborators will report their individual study and have discussions under the unifying theme “Understand the Asia-Pacific War in comparative history”. The researchers are expected to exchange their experiences and the ideas on the pedagogical methods to create the sample coursework “Asia Pacific War: History, Comparison, and Synthesis” in English for multinational students. Development of the learning materials and the sample coursework “Asia Pacific War: History, Comparison, and Synthesis” in English: This project aims to provide common materials and practice models for universities and teachers, to guide its users to construct their class individually and freely. The principal investigator of this project is responsible to conduct the sample coursework at Hitotsubashi University. Publication of the leaning materials and practices of outgoing lectures in professional graduate schools and universities of different disciplines or foreign countries attempt to develop an effective method to share the Asia-Pacific War as “common knowledge”. Innovation of research and education of the Asia-Pacific War: pursuing the above processes, with a participation of research collaborators publicly recruited, this project tries to make known internationally the researches accumulated in Japan and envisages a new dimension of the research and education of the Asia-Pacific War so that they will become a culture that can be shared internationally.

(4) Research innovation (comparison and synthesis) in organic association with development of education program

The results of the two parts of this project —the internationalization of the Asia-Pacific War studies through its innovation by making the comparative and synthesizing viewpoints on the one hand, the development constructing common leaning materials and teaching method on the other hand —are expected to enrich each other. The international research and education seminars will be occasions to associate these two parts in organic ways and to make them better known. In this process this project is also expected to reinforce and enlarge the existing network of researchers interested in the mass violence. For this purpose, the collaborative research will be based on the Center for the study of Peace and Reconciliation at Graduate School of Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi University founded in 2007.


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