Foreign and Area Studies in Japan: Imaginary Curriculum Subjects Under Colonial and Anti-Colonial Positions

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Arturo ESCANDON, Nanzan University, Japan
Foreign studies are facing a curricular transformation in Japanese Universities. Because of historical developments linked to higher education structure, foreign studies derived from core foreign language programmes. Thus, students who wanted to conduct regional studies on Latin America, for instance, had to enrol in a Spanish (from Spain) as a foreign language programme and then supplement it with narrower area studies courses such as Economic Development in Mexico or Post-boom literature in Argentine, usually taught in Japanese. The Ministry of Education has issued a 3-component policy on pre-graduate programmes which tries to balance the teaching of language skills and area studies. However, it is unrealistic to think that students can learn a foreign language from scratch and master a complex set of theoretical knowledge and methodologies at the same time during the 4 years that undergraduate programmes last. Such programmes are condemned to emphasize the teaching of theory in Japanese avoiding first-hand contact with local areas and sources, and with the literature, theories and methodologies produced in the language of the areas being studied. In this presentation, I explore the meaning and reasons of the reform and the consequences it may bring upon the higher education system. Whilst anyone could agree on the need to structure language and area studies to serve the intellectual paradigms of Japanese society, instead of serving colonial purposes, one should ask if the new curriculum policy could end up alienating and isolating Japan, as the possibilities of producing a synthesis between area and Japanese knowledge are being reduced. The study draws on Bernstein’s sociology of education, especially on the key notion of ‘pedagogic device’, with the purpose of analyzing how knowledge produced in true production fields is captured and delivered as imaginary subjects by the educational system, and its relationship with colonial and anti-colonial positions.