A New Approach to Analyzing Contemporary Global Crises: Tackling Western-centric understandings of IR and Area Studies

Panel Code

We live in a time of unprecedented troubles, where interrelated social and political networks prevail. Examples include the emergence of “Islamic State,” civil wars and regional conflicts, recent mass movements of refugees, discrimination against minorities, and the worldwide spread of terrorism, violence and xenophobia. These are shaking essential concepts, such as sovereignty, nation-state system, borders, citizenship and protecting refugees, in understanding global political issues. This implies limits to existing concepts and a necessity to introduce new perspectives based on IR and Area Studies. The panelists are at the forefront of interdisciplinary research in Japan.
Akihiro Iwashita, an expert on IR in East Asia and Russia, has been Japan’s leading exponent of Border Studies since 2008. His research analyzes the impact of globalization on borders. He is particularly concerned with how increasing flows of people and goods, technological changes, state concerns over security, and shared environmental and political challenges influence and are influenced by borders.
Masaki Matsuo is a political scientist focusing on the Persian Gulf states. Similarly concerned with the effects of globalization, he emphasizes plurality resulting from social mobility and citizen-migrant segmentation. He argues for a new model of migration society in Asia as a neo-plural society.
Yusuke Murakami studies Latin America and proposes a new perspective from the Pacific Rim. He argues that current global crises are caused by extreme segmentation and collapse not only of the existing world order but also in global socio-economic coordination.
Their views are shared by Keiko Sakai, the panel convener as well as a presenter. She developed the idea of Relational Studies on Global Crises based on her experience in Middle East Studies. This theory focuses on analysis of diverse relationships among state and non-state actors. It considers global phenomena as products of a web of interconnections, and focuses on the transformation of those relationships rather than on the actors’ essential qualities.
The intent to reshape IR and Area Studies perspectives rooted in Western-centric approaches is what unites these otherwise diverse projects. Our efforts in Japan can cast light on new fields of study to confront the critical situation we are facing.