【Report】The fourteenth session of the Global Studies Seminar series “Challenges in Global Studies” “Examining the ‘Human’ in the Age of Globalization: From the Viewpoint of Historical Anthropology”
Speaker： TANABE Akio (Professor at the Department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo)
Moderator： DATE Kiyonobu(Department of Area Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)
Discuissant：YOSHIKUNI Hiroki（Department of Language and Information Sciences, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences）
KOKUBUN Koichiro （Department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences）
BAJI Tomohito (Department of Advanced Social and International Studies, the University of Tokyo)
To learn more about the Global Studies Seminar series “Challenges in Global Studies,” click here.
The fourteenth session of the Global Studies Seminar series “Challenges in Global Studies” took place on Tuesday, June 15th, 2021. Professor Akio Tanabe (Professor at the Department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo) gave a lecture titled “Examining the ‘Human’ in the Age of Globalization: From the Viewpoint of Historical Anthropology.” Tanabe said that in the lecture he wished to address the question of the human in the age of globalization, bringing in the perspective of cultural anthropology, reflecting on his own work on India.
Introducing his research on early modern Indian society with a focus on the Khurda district of Orissa, Tanabe shed light on the heterogeneity and diversity of various practices and vocational activities of the local people that was enabled by making the most of nature’s multifaceted potential. Such picture of Khurda is significantly different from what we would acquire through the conventional, port-centric and capital-centric view of history, which emphasizes how in early modern India, “deforestation and agriculture expanded in response to the growing global demand.”
Tanabe then drew attention to the “system of entitlements” that underlay and governed these diverse forms of life. Under the “system of entitlements,” each caste would accept certain roles and duties in the regional community, receiving shares of local products in return. In such society where the access to shares of products mattered more than the ownership of land as such, entitlement-holders were considered not as individuals in exclusive possession of their body and natural resources but as dividuals constructing their “body/personhood” through their interactions with other persons and natural beings. Tanabe argued that the affirmation of diversity and the way of constructing one’s identity through one’s relationship to other beings as found in Indian society enables us to explore another possibility of “humanness,” one that is founded on the idea of ontological equality of the diverse rather than on the premise of Western individualism.
Tanabe further maintained that studying the South Asian path of development, unique in its affirmation of diversity, allows us to take a new approach to world history. Rather than pursuing the means to produce more efficiently, the question that is brought to light is: how can we co-exist with other beings, including non-humans, and derive from their existence the very source of happiness and richness? Tanabe underlined the importance of rethinking human as a being intertwined in its relationship to other beings. Here, human is conceived not as a “human being that is endowed with an autonomous faculty of judgment and has control over the course of its actions,” but rather as a “human co-becoming that finds itself embedded in the surrounding environment and is constantly in the process of becoming through its interactions with other beings.” It is by reconceptualizing human as “human co-becoming,” he argued, that we can reimagine globalization anew as a process in which interactions between humans and non-humans are prompted, allowing us to envision the globe as the shared ontological foundation of these different beings. Tanabe concluded by remarking that global studies as a discipline should aim at becoming integral in its nature, bringing to the fore both the difficulties and possibilities that emerge from the spaces “between” diverse relations among beings.
The lecture was followed by a Q&A session between Tanabe and the commentators. Hiroki Yoshikuni asked what role nature as the catalyst for diversity plays in cities. Koichiro Kokubun asked about (1) Tanabe’s use of the term “capitalism,” (2) his understanding of the individual will, and (3) the possibly coercive aspects of self-transformation. Finally, Tomohito Baji, with comments relating the anthropologist, J. Clifford’s discussion to the lecture, asked (1) what mediates between the pluralistic network of living and non-living beings on the one hand, and the public order of democratic representation on the other, and (2) how the biological characteristics of human fit into Tanabe’s vision of ontological pluralism. A number of other questions were raised from the floor and a lively discussion followed.
【TSUKAMOTO Takahiro (Graduate Student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)】
【translated by ELLIS Naomi (Ph.D. Student at the University of California, Los Angeles)】