The Center for South Asian Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (FINDAS)

  • Director: Toshie Awaya
  • Research Topic: Literature, Social Movements, and Gender Issues in South Asia
  • Research Unit 1:
    Practice and Theory of Crisscrossed Social Movements: With Emphasis on Human Ties and Sentiments
  • Research Unit 2:
    Social Transformations and Literature

The Purpose and Meaning of Forming the Center at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

The purpose of the Center is to deepen the understanding of structural changes in contemporary South Asia, using as axes the historical, political, social, and literary analyses of social movements—that have become increasingly multi-layered, diversified, and complicated—as well as the perspective of gender. Regarding the targeted fields of research, we aim to become a repository of documentation within Japan through further systematic and conscious augmentation of the documents and historical materials in the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) collections.

Through the first phase during FY 2010–14 of our research activities, it became clear that the dramatic changes in personal awareness and gender relations on an individual, family, and community level have been brought about by structural changes in modern India accompanying economic liberalization and globalization. We also realized that complexity and variability of the issue of identity have been increasing, and that it would not be possible to understand the lively form of democratic politics that characterizes India without the vigorous objections of groups until now positioned on the social periphery. In the second phase, along with focusing on the changes in human ties—particularly various aspects of social movements as well as aspects of emotions and sensitivities that support them—and further expanding the region of focus to South Asia, we will emphasize taking the lead in building a theory through consciously organizing comparative research with other regions, including China, Southeast Asia and Islamic nations. While the “politics of emotion” has recently gained attention, by no means has this deepened in the area of South Asia studies. Concerning South Asia, experimental studies and the positing of new theory in this field will serve as an effective opening to understand modern contemporary India. Furthermore, comparative research with other regions will also contribute to the understanding of global structural transformation.

South Asian language training, focusing on Urdu, Hindi, and Bengali, and South Asia research began at TUFS in the Meiji Period, and among our graduates, we count highly qualified global professionals and researchers at the center of this research in Japan. We also boast the preeminent collection of documents in South Asian languages and documents and materials pertaining to the region in Japan, as well as a long tradition of academic exchange with overseas researchers in the field. While exploiting these features to the greatest extent, the Center aims to further organize joint research as a network hub for South Asia researchers in Japan and overseas and explicitly increase the level of South Asian area studies by focusing on developing young researchers.

We will also work toward positioning ourselves as a constituent bureau, particularly of the Institute for Global Area Studies, through joint research with this institute and the Institute of Transcultural Studies, both of which have been established at TUFS.

Two Research Units

The above two research units have been established in the Center for South Asian Studies at TUFS. As explained below, they mutually cooperate in research due to the closely related nature of the issues they handle.

Research Unit 1, the “Practice and Theory of Crisscrossed Social Movements: With Emphasis on Human Ties and Sentiments,” places focus on the nature and emotions of human ties in various social movements in South Asia, with the aim of studying historically changing discourse and practice. Social movements in South Asia are developing in a multilayered, pluralistic fashion against a backdrop of society steeped in the diversity that is a hallmark of the region and dramatic structural changes in society accompanying economic liberalization. With the complex interplay of multiple elements such as social class, language, and gender, the true attraction of deciphering from a historical context and comparative perspective the social movements that emerge one after the other lies here. While, of course, movements clearly focused on women are explicitly addressed, analysis of other social movements from a gender viewpoint is also essential. We also keep in mind the mutual association of these movements. To shed light on and theorize the diversity and relatedness of social movements in South Asia, comparison with other regions is also imperative. Toward this end, we aim to actively exchange knowledge and views with researchers from other such areas.

Research Unit 2, “Social Transformations and Literature,” focuses its analysis on works in various local languages of South Asia (including English) to trace the history and social changes of the region as well as the structural transformation of contemporary South Asia. This is where a high degree of mastery of local languages, which is a feature of TUFS, comes into play. In many cases, “newly literate” readers and writers in South Asia, where the literacy rate rose rapidly after independence, act as leaders in grassroots social movements and play an important role in forming public opinion. How are they expressing the past, present, and future of South Asia in a new form? At the same time, is the interaction with existing literature showing any development?

Against a background of globalization, mastery of English, which wields a great degree of power both in the South Asia region and elsewhere, sets the standard not only for creative works but also for how the media functions.

Along with elucidating the history of gender issues in contemporary South Asia to analyze the actual status of and transformations in gender relations, both units share a focus on the direction of future resolution of this issue. The character of gender is not connoted in either the areas of social movements or literature. Discourse in social movements is structured from gender discourse, and it would be difficult to even imagine literature created without gender. Accordingly, gender perspectives are a common thread through the two research units.