What's New from the Secretariat November

The November meeting of the Executive Committee was held following the normal schedule on the 18th, the third Thursday of the month. As if many faculty members were hardly able to wait for the end of the graduate student workshop held in October, they left for fieldwork trips after it was over. Consequently, many people had to miss this month's meeting. A total of six people were absent.

The first report item concerned the above-mentioned graduate student workshop, the Kyoto Workshop (WS). The chairperson of the Workshop Organizing Committee reported that it had been held from October 30-31 at the Clock Tower Centennial Hall of Kyoto University, with great success, and that new registrations for each day of the WS came to 160 on the first day, and 120 on the second. The vast majority of people attending were graduate students, and to save travel costs, there were even some who had come all the way from Kyushu by overnight bus. The participants also included faculty of other universities, ordinary citizens, and people from newspapers and publishing companies. In fact, I was told that a few graduate students who made presentations were contacted by a publishing company several days after the WS. It turned out that many graduate students participated in the reception held in the evening of the first day, and the organizers were somewhat concerned over whether they had ordered enough food and drinks.

In last month's What's New from the Secretariat, I wrote that no one would know how the unprecedented WS would turn out until the day of the event, which was carried out, from the initial plan to the implementation, by the graduate students themselves. There were some items that could have been better -- the fact that some sub-sessions became a bit like ASAFAS' public meetings for presenting predoctoral dissertations, and that some of the comments from the floor by faculty seemed a bit like lectures -- but judging from the number and enthusiasm of the participants, I think it's fair to say it was a great success. Evidently, even outside of ASAFAS, there are many graduate students who have concerns about fieldwork or who are interested in how fieldwork should be done. It was reported that there were requests asking for similar events in the future, not only from graduate students, but even from faculty of other universities. Putting aside how we will respond to these requests, many of the 86 people who filled in the questionnaires handed out during the WS expressed the hope that the results would be published, and according to the chairperson of the Workshop Organizing Committee, we should start by considering that possibility.

In the end, the WS ran some deficit, but the results were very highly appraised, and there were no criticisms from the Executive Committee about the red ink.

The second report concerned the international symposium scheduled for next fiscal year. There was a hearing at the University's Administration Bureau on November 1 regarding the application for funds made for the Kyoto International Symposium, and the Bureau later asked if it would be acceptable to us to have the program adopted with some conditions. The first condition concerned budget -- a reduction from the 12 million yen we applied for to 8 million yen -- and the second was to move the schedule from November, as originally planned, to another month. The chairperson of the International Symposium Working Group has already given a positive reply to the Bureau on these conditions, and the Executive Committee has approved it. As its recent international academic strategy, the Administration Bureau has focused on Shanghai, Bangkok and Silicon Valley in the U.S. as places for the future international expansion of Kyoto University's research and education, and from that perspective, it would also seem important that our international symposium be held in Bangkok instead of Bogor as originally planned. Combining the funds from Kyoto University with the COE budget, it seems to have become possible to hold the international symposium, so the task now is to launch an expanded WS, and to cement the concrete plans.

Another important report was from the Public Relations Section, stating that the new top page of the Japanese website, which underwent major revisions as reported earlier, was opened to the public on November 10. The entrance now has two sections, "Learn more about fieldwork!" and "Outline of the 21st Century COE," and in particular elaborate efforts have been put into the former. For example, when a visitor chooses "Learn more about fieldwork," a world map appears with "Ongoing fieldwork this fiscal year" and "Past fieldwork" below it. Each phrase is followed by an airplane and a suitcase, respectively, which move when the visitor moves the cursor over them. This is indeed a "fine touch." "Learn more about fieldwork!" is linked to the top page of the ASAFAS website, and the Leader expressed the hope that even after the end of the COE program, new fieldwork information from faculty and graduate students would be uploaded, and that the "Learn more about fieldwork" would continue to be maintained and managed in the future. This may also relate to the activities of the Center for Integrated Area Studies, so making sure that this happens is a task for future consideration.

In relation to the Field Station Division, it was reported that by the end of this fiscal year, a conclusion needs to be made on the question of reducing the number of FSs and concentrating our resources on the selected ones, which is an issue that was discussed at the end of last fiscal year. It was also reported that the annual report on the FSs needs to be completed by the end of March next year. In addition, there are plans to hold international workshops in Yangon and Laos at the end of this fiscal year, and it was reported that the budget for them would be discussed at the Research Promotion Section, in time for next month's Executive Committee meeting.

An important agenda for discussion, carried over from last month's meeting, was the use of the 6.9 million yen for resource acquisitions for African Area studies returned to the Program. In the end, the meeting approved all the requests, including the purchase of equipment applied for by the Public Relations Section, the request by the Kenya FS for assistance with a publication, and support for the purchase of books on Africa. Added up, this will create a deficit of some 2 million yen above the 6.9 million to be returned, and the Executive Committee gave its approval to covering this from the Secretariat's reserve funds.

In any case, the Program has entered the later phase of its third fiscal year, and with regard to the use of the budget, we have been building the conditions for dealing with it in a flexible way, while maintaining a good balance.

Time flies, and it will soon be December. It is possible that both the Leader and the head of the Secretariat will be out of Japan on the regularly scheduled meeting day, so the meeting will be held a week early, on the 8th. There were some suggestions that we could cancel next month's meeting altogether, but December is a period when we have to start thinking about compiling the budget for next fiscal year, and it was decided to hold the meeting after all. A year really does go by in the blink of an eye. (Kato)

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