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Social Anthropology/Science of Religion/Japanese History of Ideas

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As a part of the effort to improve its graduate curriculum, Nagoya University established a General Human Studies program in 2000. The Department of Cultural Anthropology/Science of Religion/Japanese History of Ideas was created based on this program and is actively accepting students with various backgrounds such as college or high school teachers and NGO staff. The purpose of this program is to take an interdisciplinary approach to the different fields of human studies that tend to be differentiated from each other, and to promote unique and advanced research beyond the stereotypical thinking within each field. However, even advanced innovative research will always require a foundation. We attach great importance to fieldwork or hands-on investigation to collect and analyze primary materials for study. We are not seeking abstract knowledge of a certain principle or way of thinking. What we are aiming for is to study through a concrete understanding of actual human activities such as working, fighting, dancing, singing, praying and thinking. The study of the History of Ideas requires considerable document research, and we also expect students to conduct hands-on research that includes going through dust-covered ancient writings in libraries at temples. With "A Challenge to Common Sense" as the course motto, we are pursuing free-conceptthinking research across different academic fields as well as reevaluating the framework of conventional knowledge. Although we encourage fieldwork around the world, it is important as a starting point to study Japanese culture. Freshmen are required to engage in fundamental anthropological fieldwork within Japan. In order to deepen our research by cross-referencing research results from Japan with other parts of the world, we are planning to invite students from China, Thailand and Argentina and researchers from Cameroon.

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Titles of Prior Master's Theses:

Commercialization and Craftsmen in Tokoname, Aichi - The Relationship between Traditional Handicrafts and Tourism; Depictions of Buddhist History in Medieval Japan - "Introduction of Buddhist" Study"; "Family Name-Consciousness" in Present-day Japan; "Violence" in Festivals - Representations of The Symbol Tree Festival of Suwa Taisha Shrine; Anthropological Study of Adoption/Fostering Customs in Muslim Hausa Society in Northern Nigeria; Corporate Culture in the Information-oriented Age - Case Study of M Corporation; Text and Implementation in the Tradition of the Thangka Technique (Tibetan Buddhist Painting); Study of the "Flower Festival" of Toei-cho, Aichi; Social Anthropological Study of the Notting Hill Carnival "Mas Bands"; Linguistic Anthropological Study of Proverbs of Swahili-speaking Ponthis; Social Linkage of Vocational College and Culture, etc.

Titles of Prior Doctoral Theses:

Modern Culture Theory of Restoration of Shamanism; Anthropological Study of Perception of Death on Yoron Island, Ryukyu culture area, etc.

Class Subjects:

History of "Alien" Mentality; Domain of "Celebration"; Medieval Public Entertainment and Surroundings; Religious Text and Formality - Fieldwork; History of Prince Shotoku - Understanding and Interpretation of "Shoborinzo"; Cultural Anthropology Lecture; Special Study of Urban Anthropology; Urban Anthropology Fieldwork - "Internationalization"; Special Study of Cultural Anthropology; Human Civilization and Religion; Special Study of Religious Anthropology; Anthropology Description and Interpretation; Ethnography Study; Research of Folklore Entertainment of Higashi-Mikawa region; Cultural Study of History of and Contribution for temples/shrines; Cultural Anthropology Lecture - Agricultural Culture and Society, etc.

Yasuro Abe, Professor

Specializes in researching Japanese medieval religious culture from the standpoint of literature using philological methods. Across all human studies fields (such as literature, history, art and religious thought), Professor Abe is studying medieval narrative, tales, history of temples and shrines, auguries/miraculous efficacies, traditional dramas/plays and songs (including their foundations such as wisdom, sermons and formality) by analyzing documents and materials kept at temples (religious documents). He is currently participating in exploration and research of Shinpukuji Temple (Osu, Nagoya), Ninnaji Temple and Kajuji Temple (Kyoto) and pursuing restoration of the intellectual system created by medieval temples and the quest for the medieval Japanese vision of the world. Comparative Studies of Humanities and Social Science is a center of interdisciplinary linkage at the Graduate School of Letters. Taking advantage of this position, Professor Abe is promoting leading edge research. He helps students acquire the fundamentals of philology by encouraging them to participate in exploration/research according to their own subjects and interests and instructs them on thesis writing based on such experience.

Yoshihito Shimada, Professor

Professor Shimada started his academic exploration with Western Philosophy of Religion. For better understanding of the subject, he has expanded his study into other fields such as Japanese mythology and folklore and African folklore and occasionally returns to Western Philosophy of Religion. His three main research subjects are: 1) dry land culture, especially in Africa (Islamic culture, city state establishment, cattle breeding and trade), 2) Japanese mythology and rice paddy culture and 3) basic structure of Western philosophy including anthropology and science of religion. Professor Shimada requires students to devote themselves to their studies and learn through a heuristic approach.

Shigehiro Sasaki, Associate Professor

Specializes in Cultural Anthropology, African Ethnology and Ethnic Art Studies. Based in western Africa and Japan, Associate Professor Sasaki is studying and researching the cultural phenomenon known as "ethnic art," especially masks, masked society, masquerade and masked performances, as well as their background world-view from the standpoint of social anthropology. While placing emphasis on the ethnic historical description of individual aspects, he is willing to approach the universal question, "What does a mask mean to humans?" Cultural anthropology requires a comparative study of worldwide ethnic groups and their cultures, and the basic method of research also involves fieldwork to observe and understand the subject culture and society from the "inside." Associate Professor Sasaki not only attaches importance to document interpretation, but also to field research activities, and strives to foster researchers who will be able to deal practically with issues that arise from modern society utilizing knowledge learned from ethnic history study.

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