Uehiro Project 3: Anthropology

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“Connectedness” and Community Building for Symbiosis


Senior Lecturer Kengo Konishi


Since the last century, with industrialization, urbanization, and globalization, traditional communities based on land and blood ties have been disintegrating and becoming less associated. In Japan, against the population decline, there is an urgent need to build new communities for regional revitalization. In addition, while globalization continues to advance, frameworks such as nations, ethnic groups, and religions still create serious divisions. Beyond economic disparities and ideological conflicts, the question of what kind of community humanity can build and maintain has become a universal challenge for the second half of the 21st century. To address these issues, we will accumulate knowledge based on field research in Japan and Asia, and from an anthropological and comparative cultural perspective, we will envision the future of connectedness and give back to society.

In particular, we will focus on the concept of “縁 en” shared in the Asian region, including Japan, and conduct interdisciplinary research of humanities and sciences with anthropology as the main axis. In contemporary society, communities are not supported solely by cohabitation, family relationships, and local identity, but are transformed and activated by “chance encounters” across regions. It is also noteworthy that, as is often expressed as “intertwined,” “縁 en” occurs in a different dimension from the connectedness formed by Western agents. In light of this aspect, we will promote research aimed at creating a new academic field through the clarification of the generation mechanism of connectedness based on the concept of “縁 en.”

Research Project

1. Research on the Concept of Connectedness through Dialogue between Various Thoughts and Ethnography
Although “縁 en” is a concept that has its roots in Buddhism, at the level of practice, it is inextricably linked to a wide variety of elements. Through collaboration with diverse researchers in anthropology, Buddhist studies, philosophy, and history, we will compare and contrast diverse ideas and ethnographic materials related to“縁 en”. Thus, we will relativize “縁 en” from a Buddhist context and build a theoretical foundation for globally capturing the construction of connectedness from the perspectives of chance or encounter.

2. Anthropological Study on “Generating Connectedness” and Community Building
Regarding the generation of connectedness and the dynamics of community building, we will conduct field research in Japan, the Tibetan Buddhist region, and other regions to elucidate how chance is involved in the connections that enable us to live our daily lives. For this purpose, we will engage in participatory observations of festivals and globalized religious practices, and conduct research through dialogue with researchers and practitioners who are active in various regions or sites of their fields.

3. Methodological Exploration for the Construction of a New Academic Field of Connectedness
In addition to the literature study and field research mentioned above and the comparative study, we will explore interdisciplinary approaches which integrate humanities and natural sciences to capture the generation of connectedness and return the outcome to society. In addition, it will be our task to develop new research methodologies and technologies that will link literature, fields, experiments, clinical practices, and social return.