Educational Project 5 Cultural Diversity and Imagination

"Japan" Unit / "Middle East & Africa" Unit / "Americas & the Pacific" Unit
Toshiko Ellis

In our globalizing society, we are faced with more urgency than ever before with the question concerning the possibility of multicultural, multiethnic coexistence. In our project, we will place a particular focus on the role of creative imagination as having the potential to breakdown or overcome the borders that have defined, or so deeply influenced, our way of thinking since the beginning of the modern era. By conceptualizing imagination as a kind of critical tool, we will examine both the pitfalls and the emancipatory aspect of globalization, which is quickly permeating our everyday life. In doing so, we will also look into our historical past, our common cultural heritage and the trajectory of the modern at the fringe of which we find ourselves. Through our activities, we wish to explore, through the training of our imaginative competence, various possibilities of opening up to, relating to, approaching, understanding and sharing with people of "other" cultures and societies.

Students are expected to acquire systematic knowledge and theories related to their own disciplines with a solid base in cultural studies. Our project offers various opportunities for students to engage in activities both domestically and internationally through participation in fieldwork, symposia, student workshops, etc. We also encourage students to take the initiative in organizing events themselves. Many of the activities will be undertaken in collaboration with foreign universities. We hope that students will make the most of these experiences, developing networks with their fellow students overseas, and acquire practical and academic skills for participating in international and multicultural dialogues.

Our common theme for this year is "Critiquing Diversity". We will organize activities and lectures in line with this theme. The activities will be mainly conducted in English or Japanese.

This project is run by three units: "Americas & the Pacific" Unit (unit leader: Yujin Yaguchi), "Middle East & Africa" Unit (unit leader: Hidemi Takahashi), and "Japan" Unit (unit leader: Toshiko Ellis). In addition to the members of these units, the faculty members of UT will take part in the activities and offer related courses.

Classes Offered by the Project

Seminar in Integrated Human Sciences for Cultural Diversity VII, X, and XI
("Japan" Unit / "Middle East & Africa" Unit / "Americas & the Pacific" Unit)

  1. Cultural Diversity and Imagination: Body, Gaze, Text ("Japan" Unit)
    In relation to the general theme of “cultural diversity and imagination”, this course will focus on the theme of the “body” and examine how the experience of the body and its representation is related to the key question of co-existence. We will use films and literary works as material for analysis. In each class, we will watch a film or read a piece of literary text together and conduct an in-depth discussion. The classes will meet once every three weeks on Saturday afternoons, which will consist of text analysis followed by group discussions and presentations. The course will be conducted mainly in Japanese.
  2. Cultural Diversity and Imagination: Gender in the Middle East ("Middle East & Africa" Unit)
    Generally speaking, our understanding of the Middle-Eastern Islamic world is very limited. Take the gender issues, for example, not many of us are aware of the diverse realities of gender experience in the region. In this course, we will look at this theme against the region's political, economic and religious context, introducing and discussing some concrete examples. Students will be urged to question what it means to approach and understand a culture different to their own and to critically examine the prevalent discourse on cultural diversity.
  3. US-Japan Cultural Representations("Americas & the Pacific" Unit)
    This course focuses on gaining an interdisciplinary understanding of North America and the Pacific through reading various academic articles on the area. It encourages the students to strengthen their theoretical framework for engaging in area studies/cultural studies as well as gain some fundamental information about the area. The class sessions are, in principle, conducted in English and all the reading materials will be in English.

Fieldwork in Integrated Human Sciences for Cultural Diversity V
("Cultural Diversity and Imagination" Project)

  1. Cultural Diversity and Dialogue
    We will organize joint workshops and symposia with our partner universities on themes related to cultural diversity in East Asia. In 2017, a graduate workshop will be held at Sungkyunkwan University (Seoul, South Korea) in collaboration with Tsinghua University.
  2. Cultural Diversity and Self-expression
    In collaboration with our foreign counterparts, this course offers opportunities for students to go overseas to participate in workshops and intensive courses. The aim of the course is to train students to acquire practical skills for self-expression and to develop presentation and communication skills.