Japan Association for Middle East Studies

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President's Address

KATO Hiroshi (Hitotsubashi University)

Following an organizational reform banning the election of a director for three consecutive periods and a president for two, a new board of directors was selected to lead JAMES. One purpose of the reform was to elect younger people to position - and although the seven years' difference between my age and the former president's cannot be qualified a very large difference, I believe that the new board is quite young in spirit. Our group consists of lively opinionated individuals, and if I may say so, even my budding leadership skills only add to this aspect of "youth."

As the new president, I feel that the new board must come together to solve the following issues. The first issue is to continue the successes of the previous committee headed by Professor SATO, that is, to continue improving our activities as an academic society and expanding our international network of colleagues. At the same time, however, we must seriously reflect on what should be done and what can be done, and concentrate on a smaller range of activities. This is the second issue. It is necessary to decide for whom and for what the academic society operates, and to choose our activities accordingly.

In addition, the term "Middle East" must be reexamined. In international politics and economy today, each player operates as a nation-state, no matter its size, but on the other hand, each nation has an extensive network spread throughout the world (what may be called globalization). In such a context, perhaps the term "Middle East" has become merely a convenient historical framework we use to talk about an area's history, and nothing more.

May 2001


Presidential Statement on the Events of
September 11, 2001

KATO Hiroshi (Hitotsubashi University)

Along with the repeatedly televised images, the tragedy of September 11 that took many people's lives in the United States remains in our minds as a shocking, unforgettable event. The deplorable nature of the incident is hardly expressible, and we share, along with many other people worldwide, the feelings of deep sorrow for the victims and of anger towards the acts of violence.

The tragedy poses a challenge to those of us who specialize in Middle East studies. The motives are of course still under investigation, but we believe that the factors that led up to September 11 cannot be attributed simply to political and economic affairs. We suggest that our attitude towards the Middle East and the Islamic World thus far, characterized by unconcern and inadequate understanding, may have played a part. And sadly, the events of September 11 may cause even more apathy and less understanding, instead of marking a change in attitude.

In fact, this trend is unfortunately already apparent in, for example, post-September-11th mass media coverage, when no distinctions are made between the Islamic world, the Middle East, the Arab world, and other areas. The tragedy of September 11 cannot be simply attributed to any particular area, nation, or ethnic group, and discrimination against a particular group based on such simplistic reasoning cannot be allowed.

People of many religions, ethnicities, languages, and values coexist in what we call the Middle East, and as a result, it is a fact that a rich multifaceted culture has been developed and will continue to be developed. We are afraid that this fact and many urgent issues in the Middle East such as the peace process will be, as a result of the September 11 attacks, overlooked by the average Japanese person.

Historically speaking, Japan has not yet had any contact with the Middle East resulting in dissent between the two regions. In a way this circumstance situates Japanese Middle East studies in a unique position, and reminds us that as Japanese Middle East specialists, we must continue to work towards a multifaceted research discipline and to take heed of information from a variety of sources.

JAMES called together an emergency board meeting and decided to post on the website comments from JAMES members, all speaking from their respective backgrounds, specializations, and activities, regarding September 11. Furthermore, by doing this on a freely accessible website, non-members can also access a variety of information and opinions. We believe that opening up such a medium was one answer to how an academic society like ours can contribute to society.

October 3, 2001


Korean Association of Middle East Studies
10th International Symposium

NAGASAWA Eiji (The University of Tokyo)

I represented JAMES at the 10th International KAMES Symposium "The Middle East War and Peace" held October 26-28 in Seoul. The program was organized into the following five sessions.

I Keynote Speech on Christianity and Peace, Islam and Peace
II The Middle East Conflict: A Historical Perspective
Panel 1 Islamic Fundamentalism and Terrorism
Panel 2 Studies on al-Azhar
III The Middle East Peace and Asian Perception
Panel 1 The Idea of a Jewish Nation
Panel 2 World Economic Order and Economic Sanctions in the Middle East

IV The Middle East Peace Process

V Concluding Session

This conference was held in the tense state of world affairs after the United States began its attack in Afghanistan. It is noteworthy that a conference discussing Middle East peace was held in East Asia at this time, and the issue of the KAMES conference was taken up widely in the newspapers.

The most heated discussion was held in Session IV, although it cannot necessarily be said that it was a focused, to-the-point discussion. Dr. Mahdi Abdul-Hadi (Director, Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs) digressed from his paper topic and instead discussed the crises of the Peace Process, while Dr. Arye Naor (Ben Gurion University) coolly reflected on the history of realistic peace process strategies. (Dr. Naor is well-known for his concept of the New Middle East.) Dr. Choi Young Cheol (Konkuk University) spoke on the history of the Jerusalem issue. In this session I raised two issues that I felt were painfully needed. First, a common understanding of history must be arrived at (what may be called a bridge to the past), and also an attempt at realistic peace process strategies must be made (what may be called a bridge to the future). Many more hours of serious discussion must take place before these aims can be attained.

In another session, Dr. Qu Hong from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences spoke on Islamic studies in China. The question of the "Asian perception" of Middle East issues is not easily solved but I felt that perhaps it would be beneficial to shape the "East Asian perspective" from the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese points of view. At the beginning of the symposium, Dr. Chun Jae Ok (Dean of the Graduate School of Theology, Ewha Women's University) spoke on Christianity and peace. The address referred to Micah of the Old Testament and Luke of the New Testament, and touched upon Christian feminism in Korea. Although both Japan and Korea invested widely in the Middle East since the 1970s, there are many more Koreans than Japanese who converted to Islam. Even this one factor, I believe, differentiates the Korean and Japanese approaches to and perspectives on the Middle East and the Islamic World, and is worthy of investigation.


World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

The first WOCMES will be held in Mainz, Germany on September 8-13, 2002, and over one hundred panels are being planned. JAMES will hold a panel "Sufi Saints and Non-Sufi Saints" (organized by JAMES member TONAGA Yasushi, Kyoto University) and an exhibit of Japanese publications on Middle East studies.


JAMES on the Internet

- JAMES has maintained a website since July 2001 in the National Institute of Informatics domain. (This Website)
Please send news of workshops organized or attended and any other news to be posted to the JAMES office.

- JAMES has an e-mail mailing list and sends its members JAMES news and other information (68 messages as of October 2002). If you have not received any JAMES messages and would like to, please notify the JAMES office of your current e-mail address.


Recent Research Activities of JAMES Members

A section of the JAMES website has been set aside for posting JAMES members' recent publications.

The Bibliography of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies in Japan 1868-1988, published in 1992 by The Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies (The Toyo Bunko), is a list of publications in Japan or by Japanese referring to Islam and the Middle East. This bibliography has been made into a database, and the updated (post-1989) database can be viewed and searched free of charge on the Toyo Bunko website (http://www.toyo-bunko.or.jp/OnlineSearch/IslamME.html) or on the NII information search service (http://webfront.nii.ac.jp/, 30 yen per access). JAMES will compile recent publications of JAMES members with the Toyo Bunko and will use the information to update the database.

Information can be sent through the website or by e-mail to the JAMES office or to the Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies.

JAMES office: james@cc.ocha.ac.jp
Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies: agoto@toyo-bunko.or.jp


The 5th JAMES Open Lecture
Islam and the Islamic World in the 21st Century

NAGASAWA Eiji (The University of Tokyo)

On December 8, 2001, JAMES held an open lecture series entitled "Islam and the Islamic World in the 21st Century: Japan and the Islamic World" at the Nagoya Congress Center. The lectures addressed the important issue of the relationship Japan should seek with the Islamic World, as the Islamic World continues to become increasingly significant in the future.

1. Middle East Studies in Japan
(SATO Tsugitaka, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, The University of Tokyo)
Even before contemporary times, there was, though limited, knowledge of the Islamic World in Japan during the Edo Period as seen in ARAI Hakuseki's writings. Later, during the Meiji Period, many works forming the basis of a Japanese understanding of Islam were published. However, much of the information on Islam and Muhammad was transmitted via Europe, and thus there was a distinct European slant on the writings at this time. Firsthand accounts of the Islamic world, such as through the first Japanese Muslim's pilgrimage to Mecca, came later. Then, during World War II, with the advance of the Japanese army, studies on Asian Muslims were conducted. It was after the war that full-scale Islamic studies came into bloom, starting with the work of MAEJIMA Shinji and IZUTSU Toshihiko, who further developed the ideas of pre-war Islamic studies. Then followed a generation of scholars who studied in the West (SHIMADA Johei, HONDA Minobu, NAKAMURA Koujirou), and from the 1960s onwards, a new generation of scholars who study in the Middle East to conduct research and gather historical materials onsite.
2. Southeast Asian Muslims and the Japanese
(KOBAYASHI Yasuko, Faculty of Foreign Studies, Nanzan University)
KOBAYASHI first referred to Magoshichi's experiences in Southeast Asia as a wandering fisherman in Nankai Kibun, which is perhaps the oldest known record worldwide of Southeast Asian Muslims. During the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia, Islamic studies were tied to war strategies; KOBAYASHI elaborated on the recent studies investigating the relationship between Indonesian Muslim intellectuals (such as Muhammadiya and Nahdlatul Ulama) and the Japanese Occupational Government. Despite such a history, post-war Japan has virtually ignored its past in its relationships with Southeast Asian nations. Furthermore, because post-war Japanese research on Southeast Asia was based on American area studies methods, scholars concentrated on the concept of nationalism, and it was only in the 1970s that the importance of Islam as a research subject came to be acknowledged. Therefore KOBAYASHI concluded that the history of Southeast Asian Muslims and Japan needs to be reevaluated and requires an entirely new perspective.
3. Iranian Returnees Reflect on Japan
(YAMAGISHI Tomoko, Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Meiji University)
Iranian laborers in Japan, who are Muslim, are perhaps familiar to many Japanese people. YAMAGISHI first reported on the recent history of Iranians coming to Japan to work (the end of the Iran-Iraq war and the economic boom of the 1980s were given as reasons), and the issues of living in Japanese society (such as the laborers' legal status, areas of residence, occupations, information on living, sources of entertainment, crime). Interviews of Iranians who returned to their country were conducted in Iran last summer as a part of the Islamic Area Studies Project. Many of the interviewees spoke fondly of their experiences in Japan and had a favorable impression of the country. At the same time they spoke of work-related conflicts such as insurance and compensation, and many other various issues. Also, though they thought well of Japanese society favoring order and safety, the returnees felt that in comparison to Iranian society, family ties were weak and that very little human emotion was expressed. The Japanese experience from the Iranian point of view was accompanied by images and voices taped during the interviews.


At the Social Science Research Council

KATO Hiroshi (Hitotsubashi University)

The Social Science Research Council (based in New York) is an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization which was established in 1923 in the United States for the promotion of social sciences. The events of September 11 prompted the start-up of the Middle East-North Africa Program to organize and bring together Middle East and Islamic studies worldwide. As a part of this effort, Professor SATO was invited to become one of the project advisors.

On January 7th and 8th of this conference, the meeting "The State of Middle East Studies: Towards a Global Perspective" was held. At this meeting, scholars from three countries (France, Russia, Japan) reported on the current state of Middle East studies in their respective countries. One issue in the discussions was whether a questionnaire of Middle East studies scholars and institutions in the world could be conducted using the MESA format.

Globalization of Middle East studies was one purpose of the meeting. For this aim, the countries represented at the meeting each brought a unique perspective: France with its long history of Middle Eastern studies with a viewpoint distinct from the American one; Russia with its tradition of Oriental studies but with the need to revitalize Middle East studies after the collapse of the Soviet Union; and Japan, which, though located far from the Middle East invests greatly in Islamic area studies. I attended this meeting as the Japanese representative.

The discussion revolved around whether such a globalization of Middle East studies led by the United States were possible, or even it were necessary at all. Many conflicting opinions were given but as a result, the group agreed on a unified format for the questionnaire and to share information of Middle East studies worldwide. The JAMES committee has decided to participate in this effort and will conduct the questionnaire next May at the annual JAMES meeting.


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