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We commenced the 2nd Afrasian Symposium (Phase 3)


Phase 3 The 2nd Afrasian International Symposium


Subjectivity in International Relations

How Can IR Theory Make Sense of Identity and Geopolitics? 


Date】11 February 2017  Sat. 10:00~17:00 

【Venue】Wagenkan buiding 202 (3F), Fukakusa Campus, Ryukoku University



The Second Afrasian International Symposium

“Subjectivity in International Relations”



Chih-yu Shih (National Taiwan University)

Alan Chong (Nanyang Technological University)

Hitomi Koyama (Johns Hopkins University)

Jungmin Seo (Yonsei University)

Kosuke Shimizu (Ryukoku University)

Yasukatsu Matsushima (Ryukoku University)

Ching-Chang Chen (Ryukoku University)

Eiichi Hoshino (University of the Ryukyus)

Atsuko Watanabe (The University of Warwick)



Josuke Ikeda (University of Toyama)

Kohei Wakimura (Osaka City University)


Akio Tanabe (The University of Tokyo)

Takeshi Hamashita (Ryukoku University)



DSC_0013.JPGAfrasian International Symposium entitled Subjectivity in International Relations was held at the Ryukoku University, Kyoto, on Saturday, 11th February. The purpose of this symposium is to reexamine the ways in which subjectivity is presupposed in the discipline of International Relations that remain state-centric. Against this state-centrism, Afrasian Research Centre of Ryukoku University has been carrying on various research activities spanning the discipline of IR, history, philosophy and area studies in order to better understand the dynamism of interactions in global society that the state-centrism occludes. In taking a decidedly interdisciplinary approach these activities seek to construct alternative model for governance which better addresses and represents the dynamism that characterizes global politics. As part of this effort it became an imperative to ask how state-centrism continues to re-produce a particular vision of ontology which in turn constitutes a particular type of subjectivity. To this end, the Afrasian Centre invited researchers whose focal point of study has focused on the problem of subjectivity.



Professor Chih-yu Shih from the National Taiwan University gave a keynote speech entitled “Teaching Asia for the West”. He elucidated how people who hold different cultural contexts can foster their mutual understandings through post-western IR theory. He contends that there is more to the rise of Asian countries, especially that of the rise of China, than these being merely a matter of a shift of the center of IR theory from the so called West to the East. Rather, we have to interpret the shift as a phenomenon which enables us to focus on ontology, thus re-formulating new relationships between different populations. Subsequently, instead of conceiving of the rise of Asia as a phenomena in which we shed light on formerly neglected region, Shih argues that instead we should theorize this not as a relative shift but a dually qualitative one where post-Western IR simultaneously triggers post-Eastern/Asian IR. Such understanding would go beyond the representation of Asia as a formerly marginalized region in the past. This ontological approach is connected to an attempt to reconfigure identities based on the “West”and “Asia”through processes of constructing new relationships. What we need to think is not only to criticize the epistemology of the traditional IR demarcated by nation-states, but also to remake our dynamic relationships through ontology.



In Panel 1, “Politics of Subjectivity,” four panelists gave presentations. 



Prof. Alan Chong (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) made a presentation titled “Appealing to Humane Capitalism as the International Relations of Economics”. He pointed out the problem of homogenized theorization of economic activities in IR theories. IR focused only on economic mechanism of capitalism from the understanding of political economical science. In addition, he insisted that IR theories has to include relationships formed through certain vernacular economic activities in terms of the so-called “social capital”. To demonstrate his point, Prof. Chong examined the writings by Tomés Pres (a Portuguese delegate in 16th century) and Mahathir bin Mohamad (the former Prime Minister of Malaysia) as two models of such economic perspectives. Though their respective historical evaluations regarding their legacies remain contentious, for Prof. Chong both thinkers deserves attention for their works——be it Pres’ Suma Oriental (1515) or  Mahathir’s economic policy based on distinctiveness of Malaysia——for bequeathing the memory of geographically multiple economic activities and a sense of social justice down to us.




Prof. Jungmin Seo (Yonsei University, Korea) clarified through his presentation titled “Indigenization of International Relation Theories in Korea and China: Tales of Two Essentialisms”, that we need to question how western IR theories had been historically imported into China and Korea. According to him, when Hans Morgenthau’s classic work, Politics Among Nations (1948), was translated into Chinese and Korean in 1990s, they were translated with the purpose of applying the writings towards their respective diplomatic strategic needs. Attending to this strategic intent behind import of Morgenthau shows that the state-centric perspective is in fact reproduced through translations based on politicians’and specialists’purposes or epistemologies. In the case of South Korea, IR theories were mainly imported as instruments to form an integrated state in international society under the strong political influence of American IR theories. On the other hand, China imported IR theories for the purpose of self-understanding that China is a distinct civilizational country, representing itself as having a static Confucian framework. As these instances show, IR theory based on nation-state has been fostered to strengthen hegemony of state-centrism through international translations or theoretical interpretations.






Next presentation by Dr. Hitomi Koyama (Johns Hopkins University) was titled “'We, the people': On the Necessary and Inadequate State of Identity in Post-Postwar Japan". She reflected on the history issue that exists between Japan and Korea, and problematized the situation where the issue is all too often regarded mainly as an identity based on the nation-state. And then, she raised a question——how can IR theoretically place the identity politics into theoretical framework? As is often the case with the issue of the military sex slaves held by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, the issue is recognized as the one among states. And it often reduces the problem of identity into victimizers/victims dichotomy that aggrandizes the integrative idea of the “nation”. Even liberal thinkers who try to promote dialogue among both countries end up reinforcing an enduring presupposition of the identity of victims as “Korean women”. We have to go beyond the break among state-centric identity, and need to generate interaction through getting closer to injured experiences of these women, not to nation-states.



Prof. Kosuke Shimizu (Ryukoku University, Director of Afrasian Research Centre) addressed and problematized the enduring dichotomy of the West / the East in IR theorizing in his presentation titled “Beyond the West and the Rest: Intellectual Tradition of Japanese Philosophy." Among those developing the new framework of post-Western IR, some have embraced the idea of “East Asia”—yet this embrace of the non-Western Asia paradoxically replicates the dichotomy of the East and the West. Such case of replication can be observed in the philosophy of the Kyoto School as well as the symposium held during World War II, “Overcoming the Modern.” Both cases sought to overcome the West by finding value in the “East.” Furthermore, it is not only in such Japanese past but also in the present that liberal IR theory also replicates the same dichotomy of the East and the West: while highlighting the import of global interactions, even liberal IR theory still presupposes the dichotomy, thereby deepening the mutual co-constitutiveness of this ontological framework. 


In the second panel, IR and Margins, 4 panelists made presentations. 




Dr. Atsuko Watanabe (Warwick University), in her presentation titled, Daitoa Chiseigaku and its Geopolitical Imagination of a Borderless World: A Neglected Non-Western Rebellion without the Subject?",  elucidated the difference in recognizing international order between Japan and the West through tracing the historical process of forming geopolitics and the concept of the state. Geopolitics was formed mainly in Germany, and it regarded state as an organic unity. On the other hand, when the geopolitics had been imported into Japan, the concept of state was transformed into a unity which spread over regional extent beyond national borders. We can see this transformation in the Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (Daitoa Kyoeiken) in war time Japan. This history shows that there is no objective definition of the state. As a matter of fact, our understandings of community demarcated by borders are politically defined. In order to further pursue post-Western IR we therefore must take into account the politically defined nature of political borders in IR. 




Prof. Ching-Chang Chen (Ryukoku University) made a presentation titled “From the Margins of Nation-State to the Forefront of an Asia-Pacific Century? Okinawa-Taiwan Relations Revisited" about relations among non-state actors which are usually excluded in the state-centric IR theory. Political issues such as a territorial dispute do not mean that every actor engages with the issue with political interests. As a matter of fact, there historically exists territorial interests of sovereign states, and it accounts for the background that non-state actors are embroiled in political spheres of states. “Botansha incident”in the late of 19th century which occurred between fishermen in Ryukyus and Taiwanese natives is an outstanding example. This was the incident in which 54 Ryukyu people were killed by the natives. Yet, this issue among non-state-actors was developed into “international issue”through interventions of the Japanese government which intended to extend its influence to Ryukyu and Taiwan. State’s interest and local peoples’ interests are not necessarily aligned the way the states would purport it to be. Similarly, the territorial disputes over the Senkaku island should also not be seen as a problem of sovereignty, but rather as the friction over vocations and lives for Ryukyu, Taiwanese and Chinese people. We need to introduce alternative perspectives for constructing cooperative relationships among non-state actors against sovereign interventions.




In “Two Level Games and Intergovernmental Relations in a Postcolonial Complex: the Case of Okinawa", Prof. Hoshino Eiichi (Ryukyu University) asked how the Okinawan administration can behave as an international actor in the situation where Okinawa is subordinated to the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements. More than 70% of U.S. military bases in Japan are located in Okinawa, and such concentration of military bases constitutes everyday insecurity for ordinary people and more often women living near the base. The gang-rape by U.S. soldiers of a girl in 1995 and the more recent rape and murder of a woman in Uruma City are cases in point. Consequently the people of Okinawa deeply resent the arrangement formed between the United States and Japan. Prof. Hoshino argued that Okinawa has to employ strategies of cooperating with foreign civil society in addition to negotiating with Japanese and foreign governments. He called this strategy the “two level game.” Unfortunately, as he pointed out at the same time, the neocolonial subjugation of Okinawa by the Japanese state still remains as an obstacle to such two level game. 





In “Why is the Pursuit of Asian IR Inseparable from the Independence of Ryukyu? On the Necessity of Liberating Ryukyu from the Japan-US Security Alliance" Prof. Matsushima Yasukatsu (Ryukoku University) addressed the structure of political economy to which Ryukyu is subordinated. He pointed out that we need to reexamine the existing IR theory based on relations among big powers for regional reconciliation in East Asia, and that recovering self-governance in political practices would be effective for this reexamination. He also emphasized the importance of reexamining the subordinated position of the Ryukyus as a practical starting point and place for reconstructing such theories. On the other hand, conservative perspectives in Japan often regard Ryukyu as a geopolitically strategic place, but this looking would have been ignoring the fact that the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements subordinated Ryukyu and ruins possibility that Ryukyu’s distinctness.




(Left picture: Panel 1)Prof. Ikeda Josuke (left side, University of Toyama, moderator) and Prof. Tanabe Akio (right side, University of Tokyo, discussant)

(Right picture: Panel 2) Prof. Wakimura Kohei (left side, Osaka City University, moderator) and Prof. Hamashita Takeshi (right side, Ryukoku University, discussant)


As described above, various attempts to reexamine the epistemology and ontology of subjectivity in IR were presented in this symposium. Throughout this symposium, every speaker shared the point that the existing IR theory placed subjectivity under sovereign state and thereby occluded the dynamisms of trans-border social formation. Any borders are nothing more than tentative concepts which are brought out to make analysis well-ordered. Analytical concepts such as “sovereign states”, “Europe”, and “Asia”can by no means give us privileged perspective to clarify global social relations. Therefore it is important to constantly renew our perspective of global society: the dynamic interactions among people cannot be reduced to demarcated concepts at the centre of analysis. (and the etymology of the state is stasis—the only counter would be to keep on moving)