Accepted paper:

Mutuality in the Taniguchi Symposia on "Japanese civilization in the modern world"


Hirochika Nakamaki (Suita City Museum)

Paper short abstract:

The Symposia were held 17 times at Minpaku during 1983-1998. Each had about 12 participants who were consisted of Japanese scholars and scholars from abroad. The symposia were conducted in Japanese and its purpose was to better understand modern world by throwing a card of Japanese civilization.

Paper long abstract:

The Taniguchi Symposia of the civilization studies section were initiated by Tadao Umesao, the first Director-General of the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, and co-convened by Josef Kreiner of Bonn University and Harumi Befu of Stanford University. It lasted for 17 years during 1983-1998. The total number of participants was 211, 112 (53%) from Japan and 99 (47%) from abroad, but mainly from Europe and North America. They led a week of presentation and discussion among themselves, which enhanced friendship a great deal. The symposia were conducted in Japanese language and, to our surprise, we found that domestic and foreign participants played a combination of different roles. Whereas foreign participants presented papers on Japanese civilizations, it was left for some Japanese participants to talk about non-Japanese civilizations. Umesao himself read a key-note speech at each symposium. He played a special role by presenting his theory of civilization. He proposed a concept of sochi (devices, facilities, equipment, apparatus) as system of civilization. To better understand modern world by throwing a card of Japanese civilization, Umesao tried to focus on the relationship of "humans and device system" through comparative studies of civilizations. It was difficult, however, to maintain similar interests among participants. In this sense, commensality was not successfully realized. The outcome of the symposia was published both in Japanese and English. There are 14 volumes of the Senri Ethnological Studies and 8 books in Japanese. A collection of Umesao's key-notes was also published in Japanese (2000) and in English (2013).

panel L03
Mutual anthropologies: developing some reciprocal approaches to research