Today, countries across the globe are working toward greater diversity and social inclusion. They strive to build societies free from isolation and exclusion where everyone can achieve their full potential and support each other as equals. Here, we explore the future of an inclusive society through research findings and real-world examples at Keio University.
|1.||We aim to realize an inclusive society of cooperation, mutual respect, dignity, and tolerance for all.|
|2.||We will advocate for a deeper understanding of different values and will cultivate a culture of empathy and compassion for being true to oneself.|
|3.||We will strive to remove social barriers and foster an environment that empowers people with choice and control over their own lives.|
My field of expertise largely lies in a theoretical examination of social change. It is a branch of sociology that applies a macro, global perspective to examining the transformation of people's culture, values, politics, and economics in modern and contemporary society as a result of changes in social structures. Of these issues, I conduct theoretical and empirical research on the transnational migration of people and the resulting multicultural societies, focusing primarily on Japan and Australia.
When we talk about inclusion, tabunka kyōsei (multicultural co-living) is one concept that has attracted much attention in recent years. I am also keenly aware of the problem of how a word like kyōsei, or "co-living," is thrown around in society and the consequences it can have.
The Japanese concept for "living together" or "co-existence" is kyōsei, which translates as "symbiosis" and refers to the biological phenomenon in which different species of organisms live in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. Take the symbiotic relationship between clownfish and anemones, for example. Around the 1970s, the term began to be used in the humanities and social sciences to refer to human "symbiosis" with nature and with the socially vulnerable and marginalized. In the 2000s, the term was expanded to tabunka kyōsei, or "multicultural co-living," and was widely used by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications as administrative language for supporting foreign residents.
Multicultural co-living—at first glance, the positive nature of the very word seems irrefutable, but it isn't always beneficial for people of foreign backgrounds living in Japan. Some national and municipal policies for multicultural co-living fall into a pattern that encourages assimilation with the Japanese people in terms of language and culture. The ambiguity of how we define "Kyōsei" and "multicultural co-living" can make it difficult to see the presence of actual discrimination, inequality, and injustice.
Of course, there are also NPOs and local governments that recognize these problems and are working to promote a more desirable version of kyōsei. All of the students in my seminar volunteer at NPOs, gaining fieldwork experience through kyōsei initiatives in Kawasaki or Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture. They donate their time once a week for two years during their third and fourth years at Keio to assist young people with roots abroad or from families receiving public assistance. Issues of culture, identity, and poverty—and gender and sexuality, for that matter—are intricately intertwined in society, and I expect my students to experience firsthand the place where these issues intersect through their fieldwork.
I have my students summarize their experiences in their field notes, which they then share, which they then share on our seminar's private Facebook page. From there, students consult the relevant literature to create presentations based on their experiences using video footage and other materials they have gathered in the field. In one of my courses, I even allow students to compile their field notes into an ethnography in lieu of a graduation thesis.
As I already mentioned, the efforts for kyōsei like multicultural co-living are still in their infancy in Japan. As long as people of foreign backgrounds, the poor, and sexual minorities are subjected to unjust or difficult living conditions, kyōsei is a challenge that society must address. Some believe that the younger generation, like the students in my seminar, is more diverse and tolerant than middle-aged folk and older generations, so kyōsei will emerge as a matter of course once they become responsible for society. But personally, I think that’s just wishful thinking. kyōsei is an urgent social issue. As such, people like myself—the adults with most of the authority—must be the ones to tackle issues such as discrimination, poverty, oppression, and exclusion, to create a society that instills hope in the next generation. And I intend to make a difference through research and education.
I did my fieldwork at a prefectural high school in Kawasaki. I mainly helped students with roots abroad learn Japanese and showed them how to study for Japanese university entrance exams. While I was impressed by how each student was thinking about their future, I was also faced with the harsh reality that so many things in society need to change before they can make their dreams come true. I start work at a newspaper company next April, but I would like to continue my involvement in these multicultural efforts through my work and by volunteering even after I enter the workforce.
Prof. Shiobara's insights on diversity and kyōsei never cease to amaze me. Even though I thought I understood the importance of diversity, I realized, for example, that I have been subconsciously rejecting ideas that don't align with my values. His seminar has taught me the importance of getting to the root of a problem. As Prof. Shiobara's student, I had the opportunity to volunteer and teach study skills to junior high school students from families receiving public assistance. I tried to communicate as best I could with students by reading between the lines and observing the emotions behind their words.
*All affiliations and titles are those at the time of publishing.
*This article originally appeared as a feature in the 2022 Spring edition (No. 314) of Juku.