What's New from the Secretariat October

Autumn has arrived, and the Japanese archipelago has been struck repeatedly by disastrous typhoons and earthquakes. Each time we saw scenes from the disaster-stricken areas on TV, we would feel the need to express our sympathy to all those who have been affected, and also feel grateful for the fact that, although we have many graduate students and faculty members stationed doing fieldwork throughout Asia and Africa, we have not had any accidents yet, and they have carried out their research and education without major troubles. We would like to continue to carry out the activities of the Program, in an academically daring way, yet physically with the greatest care.

The October Executive Committee meeting was held on the 21st. Needless to say, the most important report at this meeting was the "Kyoto Workshop," the graduate student workshop, which was to be held just ten days later. The chairperson of the Workshop Organizing Committee gave a report on the final stage of the preparations. The report included the state of the distribution of posters, flyers and a booklet of presentation abstracts in relation to publicity, the photo exhibit that will be displayed in parallel with the workshop, the status of budget use, the planned reception, and the future handling of the results of the workshop.

This was the first report to the Executive Committee on the photo exhibit, which will mainly feature pictures taken by graduate students in the field. This derivative event symbolizes how the student-led workshop is growing larger day by day. The initial budget for the workshop was 3 million yen, but partly because of the pre-workshop meetings held for each session and sub-session, it has become stretched, and it was predicted that there would be a shortfall in the funds for the two invited speakers. It was reported that an application was made to the Japan Consortium for Area Studies to make up for this deficit, and that fortunately the application was accepted. In principle, the Program cannot provide assistance for the costs of receptions held within Japan , and this is a tough issue for a project such as the current one, where graduate students are the main participants. It was decided that the faculty would be asked to bear a fair share of the cost to make it possible to set a low participation fee for graduate students.

Many other 21st Century COE programs have planned workshops for graduate students or young faculty members. However, I believe this is the first time that such a workshop was carried out, from the initial plan to the implementation, by the graduate students themselves. No one will know how it turns out until the day of the event, but the Executive Committee would like to give a big round of applause and words of praise to the members of the Organizing Committee members if only for having realized this project.

From the Public Relations Section, an outline of the impending major revision of the top page of the Japanese website was given. The entrance from the top page will have two sections, "Learn more about fieldwork!" and "Outline of the 21st Century COE." The former will be based on the concept of appealing to a general audience, and will even serve to attract high school students with an interest in Africa, for example. The latter will be targeted at people, such as officials at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), who want more details about the Program, and will lead to information such as the Outline of the Program, Organizational Map, and Staff and Responsibilities.

The Public Relations Section also put forward the proposal that in order to enhance the contents of the website, it would be desirable to purchase a new file server and a Macintosh computer, as well as an image processing computer for graduate students so that they can operate it for the website. The proposal will depend on the availability of budget, and seen from a "JSPS" standpoint, it is not necessarily desirable to purchase new equipment in the latter years of the five-year Program. However, the website is the Program's "face," and the Executive Committee decided to give positive consideration to the proposal. The Executive Committee offers applause and gratitude to the enthusiastic activities of the Public Relations Section as well as the administrative assistants in charge of maintaining the website.

A report was given on the fact that the ASCOM groupware has been launched. Another report was presented on the budget of 6.5 million yen for resource acquisitions for African Area studies. As other budgetary appropriations had been confirmed, this sum was to be returned to the Secretariat, and was made for support from the Program of 3 million yen for books on Africa. Partly in consideration of the previous proposal made by the Public Relations Section, it was decided to postpone a decision on the funding to next month's Executive Committee meeting, to see what other proposals are made.

There was a report from the West Asia Field Station that the second volume of the series of the catalogue of magazines in Arabic was published. One of the members of the Executive Committee, who does not understand Arabic, looked at the publication upside down as it was passed around, but as reported in the May 2004 issue of What's New from the Secretariat , it was said that there is noting similar in publication, and it will be a very precious catalogue for researchers in the field.

Agenda items for discussion this month included, first, the approval of changes in the members of the Secretariat, an addition to the faculty in charge of the Kenya field station due to personnel changes, and decisions on students to be dispatched to the FSs (three to Asia, eight to Africa). A new topic of discussion was whether we should place information on the website on study abroad programs and on research permission systems in each country of Asia and Africa. Various opinions were put forward, and in the end it was decided to have ASAFAS consider the issue, so it will be brought up in the ASAFAS Network Committee. From the Network Section, there was a proposal that as a part of the creation of a database of FS activities, graduate students dispatched abroad should be asked to submit photographs from their fieldwork. The proposal was approved by the Executive Committee with the provision that faculty dispatched to the FSs would be asked to do so and take it as their responsibility. Submitting photographs can be burdensome for the people involved, but the development of the database will be of great use for people both inside and outside the Program, so everyone's cooperation will be appreciated.

The final topic involved publication assistance for a manuscript compiled by a graduate student dispatched to the Kenya FS. It deals with body ornaments in Samburu society in Kenya, East Africa, and includes photographs and illustrations of ornaments, along with commentaries. The Kenya FS would like by all means to receive assistance for this publication. This request followed the one approved at last month's meeting for publication assistance for The Common Marine Plants of Southern Vietnam. There are issues, such as how many similar requests should be expected in the future, and the budgetary problem of 1.85 million yen, but we would like to consider this in a positive light, and will discuss it again at next month's meeting in connection with other requests.

Having said that, the budget allocations were extremely difficult at the time of the Program's launching, but now, more than half way through the five-year Program, we are seeing some plans for the expansion of the activities as well as some moves to put the achievements into tangible results. Under this situation, we will have to give careful thought and make ingenious efforts for the future allocation of the budget, in a different way from that at the time of the launching of the Program.

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