Graduate School of East Asian Cultures Department Outline

History of the Department

Kansai University has incorporated many outstanding scholars in the field of East Asian culture to build a department with international education and research activities. The department’s efforts were recognized when it was chosen by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) as one of the initial “Global COE Programs” launched in 2007. After our application to MEXT was accepted for “Formation of Education and Research Departments for International Cultural Interaction Studies: Creating a New Cultural Image of East Asia via a Peripheral Area Approach,” we launched the graduate department in April, 2008, which consisted of the Cultural Interaction Studies major and East Asia Cultural Interaction Studies major.

The major reached its year of completion in 2010; it became independent from the Graduate School of Letters and was reestablished as the major in East Asian Cultures and Cultural Interaction Studies. This development enhanced Kansai University’s unique educational research in East Asian cultures and at the same time facilitated utilizing the global educational research hub cultivated through the Global COE Program.

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Description of the Program

Cultural interaction, which forms the core of educational research in the Graduate School of East Asian Cultures, is an academic discipline that focuses on cultural formation, transmission, contact, and change within the defined entity of East Asia to elucidate total cultural interaction from a multifaceted, integrated point of view. Such a field requires an interdisciplinary and cross-national approach that transcends traditional research in academic and national frameworks. The aim of the department is to help students acquire understanding of the overall image of East Asian cultural interaction and to foster a vision that is cognizant of the chain of various transnational cultural contacts throughout East Asia.

The degree of interdependence of East Asian nations in the twenty-first century has become ever more pronounced. The fact that visceral friction still surfaces among the nations of the region indicates an immaturity in attitudes toward other national cultures. To solve this problem, it is imperative that cultures not be appraised based on the criteria of relative merits and strengths. Rather, establishment of an outlook and methodology that grasps national cultures from a global perspective must be sought. The Graduate School of East Asian Cultures aims to slough off national cultural chauvinism, align itself with a view toward cultural interaction that treats the complexity created by the chain of constant interaction in East Asian cultures, and analyzes dynamically and complexly various aspects of cultural interaction in East Asia through the diverse fields of the humanities. The department aims to greatly change the direction of cultural research on East Asia and cultivate internationally-minded individuals who share a common heritage.

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There are three general research areas in the Graduate School of East Asian Cultures: East Asian Languages and Visual Representation; East Asian Thought and Organization; and East Asian History and Dynamics. Students in the graduate department establish one of these research themes as the basis of their own research from which they develop their own transnational areas and regions of interest. For example, students who focus on research related to the field of East Asian Languages and Visual Representation will receive guidance in seminars in their fields, will increase their specialization in research methodology and materials through lecture-based coursework, and will concurrently take multiple lectures related to either East Asian Thought and Organization or East Asian History and Dynamics to attain a deep knowledge of methodologies and documents in other related fields. The same is true for students studying in one of the other two general research areas.

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Group Guidance System

The department has adopted a group guidance system in which one scholar is assigned as the major advisor to the student, and secondary advisors (at least one for MA students and at least two for PhD students) in different fields of specialization are assigned to provide additional guidance. Usually, research guidance will be conducted by the student’s main advisor in the advisor’s seminars, but secondary advisors can also contribute to student guidance in other areas as appropriate. Advisors check the progress of the student’s research proposal, and effectively utilize the WEB-version platform for monitoring the guidance given. We strive to share information between professors and between professors and students as part of our effort to cultivate a perspective that transcends the framework of individual research fields.

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Classes Designed to Facilitate International Competitiveness

The department requires students to attain a level of proficiency in foreign languages in order to express themselves academically in an age of globalization. Students in the department will master an Asian language outside of their native language that is necessary for their areas of research. In addition, the department offers curriculum that emphasizes improvement in English proficiency with the aim of allowing students to participate in international conferences that focus on the plurality of East Asian cultures.

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Method of Course Instruction

All classes in the department are on the semester system (spring and fall), and as a rule, registration for courses is done at the beginning of the academic year. Master’s students submit a proposal for two years of study, and doctoral students for three years at the time of matriculation. Students will continue to submit detailed research proposals at the beginning of each academic year in order to progress through the program smoothly. Individualized course guidance is conducted based on these initial proposals, providing support for research that reflects the essence and traits of the major.