4. The Ant and the Grasshopper

In the midst of the hot sunshine of summer, the ant works with might and main to build up a store of food. The grasshopper, by contrast, indifferent to matters of this kind, leads a life that entertains him, and spends his time playing music. However when winter finally comes along, and food disappears from the natural world, by contrast with the ant, who leads a comfortable life surrounded by food stored in his nest, the grasshopper is tormented with hunger. This fable of Aesop, which teaches diligence, retribution, and the avoidance of hardship through making prior provision, is good as far as it goes. In the world we live in, however, we need the grasshopper as well as the ant to make this world fuller and more interesting. Fortunately, in ASAFAS, if there are staff and students who can be described as ants, there are also grasshoppers, dragonflies, and butterflies. That is to say, there is great heterogeneity. Moreover, in terms of area studies there are many different ways of thinking, and many different approaches towards it. It is important that we would not bottle up this diversity so as to create a row of confined and tranquil abodes for each way of thinking; rather, we need always to ask ourselves how the variety is converted into a catalyst for intellectual curiosity and creativity through mixture, hybridization and integration of heterogeneous and variant types. This is the biggest challenge that the staff and students at ASAFAS have to tackle, both as an institution and as its constituent members.

In a farming village in Java, children learn Arabic script, and are taught how to read and recite the Koran, about 1900.
Source: Indonesia: Images from the Past, Times Editions, Singapore, 1987

KATO Tsuyoshi
Doing Fieldwork on the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies

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