Beyond Research

While academic research about the environment is the center of the trip, I would like to take an opportunity today to reflect on the more “average” culture differences and preparations regarding the trip. I really appreciate Aridome-sensei and Anna-san for their instruction about Japanese societal expectations and very practical issues. It is very easy and convenient to forget the small things while prepping for a greater project, but we have to constantly take a step back from this big issues to address the more frequently encountered daily life problems.

Back to more philosophical musings…

After taking a class about Orientalism the past semester, I became more aware of inherent bias in any reading I do. Going from that, I find it more difficult to judge the positionality of the author without understanding the specific cultural, social, and geopolitical context they are writing in and from. Additionally, the class taught me to look at power structures through a center-peripheral structure. Many of the problems about urban vs rural or Tokyo (Japan) vs Tohoku seem to stem from the disconnect of the marginalized communities and the decision makers. I do not know how the dialogues can progress to encourage those with power to actually meet the needs and to listen to those affected, but big problems do require creative solutions.

While we can apparently see the connection between governmental policy and environmental conservation, the political forces can even extend to the definitions of nature and how to interact with it. For example, Shinto’s ideas are appropriated to install a specific cultural nationalism for the Japanese as imagined by the government. The reverence of nature is not as simple as the “supernatural” existence of its existing state, but this respect is another manufactured byproduct of humanity. This is also in reaction to Western power dynamics and how those countries interact with their vision of “nature.” The nuances are worth considering, and nature cannot be a “retreat” or “sanctuary” as long as it remains a creation of humanity.

Author: Gerlin Leu '19

Hello readers! I am Gerlin, an Asian Studies major focusing on religion in South (and Southeast) Asia (although thinking about pursuing academic studies about food culture and power.) I have been studying Japanese for two years now. My original plan was to look at religious NPO's collaborative efforts after 3/11 and how that has redefined the role of religion in society. I am currently also very obsessed with the theories of subaltern and postcolonialism, so these themes will echo through my posts. I enjoy taking photos and talking in person (more than blogging). じゃ、よろしくお願いします。