Uniting Diverse Research Interests

One of the highlights of today was an energizing and engaging lecture by Professors Sakura Christmas and Matt Klingle. As we delved into two readings, “The Problem with Purity” by Richard White and “History and Biology in the Anthropocene: Problems of Scale, Problems of Value” by Julia Thomas, the interconnected nature of our group’s varied research projects began to emerge for me for the first time. In his 1999 lecture focusing on the problematic yet inextricable mixing of the social and the natural, Thomas questions, “Having created a mixed and dirty world in which what is cultural and what is natural becomes less and less clear and as hybrids of the two become more and more common, what do we do?” I think this is a question that can serve as a theoretical framework to unite each of our diverse research interests. Over the course of the next two weeks, we will explore fisheries, zoos, activism surrounding nuclear energy, Buddhism, traditional medicine, and animation—all of which demonstrate clear links to the environment, but not necessarily clear links to one another. As we rapidly move from site location to site location (and research topic to research topic), I think that continuing to actively engage with this framework will enrich our projects and allow us to cultivate a deeper understanding of their larger sociocultural implications. It will also be useful to question: how do our own cultural conceptions of nature affect our ideas about nature in a Japanese cultural context? How can we preemptively increase our awareness of these preconceived notions within our own group before departing for Japan? Given that many of us students and professors alike come from diverse cultural backgrounds, it seems that one starting point would be continuing to discuss our own cultural notions of nature in order to elucidate points of similarity and difference.