[Essay] Northeast Asia Research Center (University of Shimane base) held a start-up conference on June 17-17, 2016.

Northeast Asia Research Center (University of Shimane base) held a start-up conference on June 17-17, 2016.


A startup academic conference hosted by the Northeast Asia Research Center (NEAR Center, University of Shimane), one of the bases of the Northeast Asian regional project, was held at the Hamada campus, Shimane Prefecture, June 17-18, 2016. To strengthen cooperation between the centers, representatives of the two bases were appointed as organizers of the event – Yuji Fukuhara (NEAR Center) and Naoki Amano (Yamagata University). They were joined by Atsushi Inoue (NEAR Center Director), Osamu Inoue, Xiaodong Li, Toru Ishida, Shiho Maeda (University of Shimane), Hiroki Oka (Tohoku University), Tsuneo Namihira (University of the Ryukyus), Eduard Baryshev (Tsukuba University), Zhongchen Wang (Tsinghua University, China), Huang Kewu (Academia Sinica, Taiwan), Naheya (Inner Mongolia University, China), and Liu Jianhua (a representative from the International Research Center for Japanese Studies). As you can see, this event gathered participants from many Japanese and foreign universities, including participants from Seoul National University and Northeast China Normal University.

The NEAR Center base main research theme is “Formation of a Modern Area and Its Impact.” The center has already established a researchers’ network and cultivated research results. 

The starting point of research is not the modern era in which the area is divided by borders and colonies, but the history of pre-modern times when Northeast Asia was more or less united. The central theme of the project focuses on the process of Northeast Asian modernization, which was a result of Western European influence on the area. The European impact has transformed the whole regional structure as, for example, it has turned Russia into a European actor.

At this start-up meeting, after a brief introduction, participants for a long time discussed the term “modernity” as the key concept and the problem of modernity in Northeast Asia. From the perspective of international relations history, the modern model of regional order is the Western European model, where relations between states are controlled by international law (the Westphalia model). However, it is quite difficult to answer when exactly Northeast Asian modernity started. In this matter, we talk not about one-sided acceptance of Western influence by Asia, but about transformation of the model in each country. But, with this specific explanation, discussion has reached a deadlock. Undoubtedly, the topic of Northeast Asian modernity is too broad for one discussion. This is why the NEAR Center base chose this theme as a central topic for further discussions with the goal of finding the answer to Northeast Asian modernity. This research theme based on historical experience is essential for the whole Area Studies Project for Northeast Asia since the region is more divided than integrated and history can give hints on how to build a new cooperative relationship in the region. In the future, we would like to continue collaboration in this area.

(Written by: Naoki Amano, Translated by Aleksandra Kuklina)