Some of you who would like to do research on Africa may have planned to go to Africa when you entered university, but were unable to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The same was true for the graduate students of the Division of African Area Studies. However, in FY2022, many of our graduate students were finally able to go (return) to the Africa.
Although Africa still has a strong image of wilderness, poverty, and civil wars, the actual Africa is diverse: some urban youths start their own businesses in IT, others continue hunting and gathering activities while growing cacao in the rainforest, and still others experiment with new agricultural methods. In their own lives, African people are tossed about by the waves of globalization, but at times they resist the waves and search for a better way of life. The natural environment surrounding African wildlife also continues to change in the face of social change and human interaction.
Graduate students in our division will set themes and conduct research while experiencing the dynamism of Africa through long-term fieldwork. During their fieldwork, they encounter themes they did not expect or discover facts that are different from what they had expected. As the saying goes, “The more you know about Africa, the less you know about it,” and that is precisely what makes African area studies so exciting.
To become an area researcher, steady research activities in Japan are also indispensable. You will deepen your learning through discussions with like-minded fellow graduate students, senior students, and faculty members at seminars and other events. The books and journals in our library will also help you in this process. Through fieldwork, discussions at the university, and literature research, students compile their research into a “pre-doctoral thesis” (equivalent to a master’s thesis). Issues that emerge during the writing process are carried over to the doctoral dissertation.
Writing and researching for a doctoral dissertation can be a painful experience. However, when the dissertation is completed, you will feel a sense of accomplishment that will outweigh the pain. Since there is no end to research, you will realize that there are still many things you do not understand even after completing your doctoral dissertation. And you may murmur, “The more I learn about Africa, the less I understand it.”
Why don’t you start a “long journey” to learn from Africa?
Misa Hirano-Nomoto Division Head, the Division of African Area Studies (AY2023)