Research Objectives and Overview
Due to the amazing development of science, technology, and the market economy, people’s lives have been massively improved, including their affluence, convenience, health, and diversity of opportunities. However, problems such as poverty, inequality, discrimination, and religious conflicts still exist—as they have throughout history. It is also a fact that violence, terrorism, and wars are still arising as a result of these problem.
Modernity has emphasized economic development and affluence, which has tended to bring about standardization and uniformity. For example, mechanisms have been established to evaluate people, which were based on their educational background and social status. It was also intended to promote a period of time when the model of a nuclear family was premised upon the existence of a full-time housewife. Furthermore, the nation-state ideal has emphasized national homogeneity, brought about the exclusion of that which is different, and forced assimilation.
Taking these problems into account, the 21st Century COE Program sought to open up a space for new social research, which emphasizes diverse forms of happiness amidst conflicts between economic globalization and the cultural values that differ from it. Since its establishment, the institute has continued to prioritize interdisciplinary, collaborative research, which makes “the other” and “alterity” key concepts; they include the joint research projects “Societies Forged by War” and “Public Sociology in Asia: Social Survey beyond the Dualism of ‘Exclusion’ and ‘Inclusion.’”
Today, even though globalization’s progression, or rather, because this progression, is replacing modernization’s standardization and uniformity, there is a need to construct societies in which different, contrasting ways of life and cultures (e.g., minority groups) are respected and can coexist without being excluded. This valuing of cultural diversity is closely related to the elimination of poverty, exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice.
Precise, thorough social research about the diverse ways that people live (and interact with the cultures surrounding them) is an indispensable part of approaching these problems. In addition to local, on-the-ground surveys, this research can include international comparisons and large-scale quantitative scholarship. However, it must be noted that such scholarship can be problematic, as it takes the perspective of those engaging in it for granted; the viewpoints of the subjects being studied are sometimes ignored or neglected. In the case of this institute, emphasizing cultural diversity means engaging in scholarship, while reconsidering the form that social research itself should take.
With this basic approach in mind, the institute established four new research projects during the 2016 academic year. Information about them can be found on their individual webpages. Through these projects, the institute aims to become a worldwide hub for social research, which is rooted in respecting cultural diversity.