Principles and Objectives

Principles and Objectives of the Graduate School of International Cultural Studies

Tohoku University’s Graduate School of International Cultural Studies was established in April 1993 as a part of major university-wide reform. In the process, GSICS became one of the university’s first independent institutes. The established goal of this institute is to provide education and research ? both fundamental and interdisciplinary ? on issues of international import, connected with regional cultures, cultural exchange, and language studies. In the process, GSICS hopes to nurture exceptionalism amongst its personnel, enabling faculty, graduates and students, alike, to flourish both inside and outside of Japan in ways that contribute to the advancement of knowledge globally and assist in the furtherance of internationalization.

The progress of large-scale human exchanges beyond nations ? evidenced, above all, by the internationalization of economic activities ? implicates two essential strands. One is positive: the promotion of mutual understanding amongst the various peoples of the world. The other, oft-times negative, is the serious economic and/or cultural friction engendered between nations and regions during the course of such exchange. These conflicts are due not only to the differences of language and styles of thinking among the peoples of the world, but also, most often, the result of a lack of understanding of local history, culture, religion and nature. Once such differences arise, the resulting tensions are difficult to offset. Unfortunately, still today there appears no end to the up-cropping of ethnic and regional conflict caused by religious and cultural misunderstanding and intolerance.

While the world of the 21st century has become increasingly globalized and borderless, in order for Japan to build high quality international exchange and cooperation, it is of prime importance to nurture researchers and business professionals who possess highly specialized knowledge and a deep appreciation of the problems and implications associated with international exchange. From this standpoint, GSICS offers educational training which strives, in part, to foster creative researchers who refuse to limit themselves to narrow disciplines; at the same time, our aim is to cultivate highly specialized professionals who possess broad international views.

In this global age, where information is a major element of international exchange, various nations of the world have evinced a rapid movement toward cultural and economic unification. Under such conditions, each local or regional culture has developed not only in accord with a particular historical background; its original cultural characteristics have also been transformed by assimilation with other, exogenous cultures. Such assimilated culture might be called “International Culture.” It is the job of faculty and students in GSICS to engage in the study of this entity, international culture, which could be defined as “the academic field which examines the formation, development and exchange of each regional culture in the past, present and future, from the perspective of comprehensive, interdisciplinary convergence.”

As many have noted, the definition of culture is highly amorphous, embracing history, society, nature, science, technology, economic activity, education and lifestyle, as well as language, religion, ideas, literature and the arts. Because of such complexity, the Graduate School of International Cultural Studies often approaches the subject from the opposite direction: striving to capture and understand culture by investigating how problems in the various disciplines influence ways of life and patterns of behavior of people who are living in various regions of the world. In so doing, GSICS teaching and research also demonstrates how such problems account for cultural diversity and uniqueness, as well as universality and similarity. As can be intuited, research on international culture is multi-layered and complex. For this reason, it requires new ways of thinking and academic approaches which move beyond the traditional frameworks, methods and concepts of the traditional, individualized, specialized fields that have so long reigned in the liberal arts, the social and natural sciences.

“International Culture” research, as an academic discipline, is but the initial stage of intellectual development for those housed at GSICS. Our graduate school is determined to fulfill its aim of establishing a new academic discipline capable of grappling with an ever-changing milieu of international culture. We seek to do so with accuracy and fairness; by cultivating theoretical frameworks which are scientific, yet able to deal reliably with a variety of practical issues raised daily by the spread of international culture. Behind our effort is the hope of solving environmental and resource problems, moving toward permanent peace and the coexistence of social groups, and instilling mutual understanding between different cultures. At the heart of our endeavor is the amicable resolution of tensions between regional and local cultures, peoples speaking diverse languages, inhabiting variegated social structures, and engaging in various social practices, as the world moves ? collectively and interdependently ? ever deeper into the 21st century.

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