JAPANESEENGLISH

プロジェクト概要 Outline of the Project

Assignment

Research Objectives
We define the concept of ‘the street’ as a broad field that constitutes one of the major challenges confronting contemporary anthropology. Why, now, do we need an anthropology that focuses on the street? To put it simply, the fact is that a dramatic trend towards a society based on ‘space of flow’ in a Castells' sense has come to define the post-modern condition. That reality is of course a continually developing research theme that is now increasingly occupying the whole spectrum of the social sciences, under the banner of such concepts as globalization and transnationalism. In sociology, a different discipline but one that is drawing steadily closer to anthropology, we see for example the increasing application of media theory in a bid to ask what is going on in everyday life and elucidate the reality hidden behind it.
Though the fruits of such research are most meaningful, they do tend to seek for ever more refined methodologies rather than doggedly recording reality, and as a result, reality tends to become dwarfed to the impetuous theoretical gaze. The knife is sharp, but whether it cuts to the heart of the matter is a different question. These impetuous attempts to use theoretical frameworks to ‘understand at one blow’ tend to leave the theoretician observing from up in the sky, at risk of missing the finer points of reality within the panoramic view.
Reality is complex and in constant flux. The vital feature of anthropological research is its constant use of the heuristic approach, a methodology that emphasizes a gradual closing-in on understanding by a series of trial-and-error personal learning experiences. This anthropological research style, with its willingness patiently to close in on our incomprehension of reality, and then to continue its relationship with that incomprehension [for as long at it takes to come to terms with it], is where we sense the possibility for anthropology to make a distinctive contribution within the social sciences. As one may see from this methodological feature, anthropological research has a close natural affinity to “the view from below,” with which there is a need to describe and analyze contemporary reality, as presently being studied under the ambit of the space of flow, globalization, transnationalism etc.
This research project emerged from an awareness that applying the above anthropological methodology and perspective to the ‘street phenomenon’ could be highly effective in developing one branch of the transnationalism research that is of such vital importance for the world today. That is to say, the word ‘street’ as used here includes two meanings. The first meaning is relatively literal: it signifies the street phenomenon in all its multilayered complexity, covering a range of research targets, from actual streets themselves to the globalization of people, things and words or the dimension of streets as transnational pathways. The second meaning of the term is the ‘view from below’ – the street as a methodological vantage point. In other words, the term denotes ‘transnationalism from below’ – a methodological viewpoint fitting to the objective of describing the kind of reality that cannot be described from the transcendental perspective which is ‘transnationalism from above’ (Smith and Guarnizo 1998). Such was the thinking that led us to define our research objective as ‘Anthropological Studies on Transnationalism with the special reference to the “Street” Phenomenon.’
Steven Vertovec, a leading figure in transnationalism research within the discipline of anthropology, divided the analytical framework for that research into six main sub-fields: “transnationalism as a social morphology, as a type of consciousness of belonging, as a mode of cultural reproduction, as an avenue of capital, as a site of political engagement, and as a reconstruction of ‘place' or locality” (Vertovec 1999). In this project we recognize the need to remain aware of all six elements in this schematization, but propose to focus primarily on the two that are most susceptible to the anthropological approach: cultural reproduction and reconstruction of place. We hope to investigate the problems that arise in relation to change and reconstruction in specific localities and local cultures as they are buffeted by the storms of globalization.
Tomiyuki Uesugi, in the course of a paper summarizing recent developments in transnationalism research, emphasizes the possibility for anthropology to make a contribution in one of Vertovec's sub-fields, that is, ‘type of consciousness of belonging,’ an area that Uesugi sees as under-researched, covering issues such as the multiple consciousnesses of international migrants and their multifaceted networks (Uesugi 2004). While taking due account of this view, we principally want to look at the hitherto under-theorized fields of locality and translocality. This is because we think that the realities of local spaces await a more detailed analysis even than that expressed in the term ‘transnationalism from below.’ This is a project that cannot be accomplished except by the kind of intense empirical survey that goes beyond the work of our rivals in the field of cultural studies, to generate accurate descriptions of change and creation in local spaces – those most delicate of fieldsites. In order to describe that delicate reality in contemporary local spaces, Yasumasa Sekine, currently head of this project, has stressed the importance of maintaining a clinical separation between two types of locality: ‘victorious localities’ and ‘defeated localities’ (Sekine 2005). The idea of the distinction between two types of locality is borrowed from Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project (1999), where Benjamin coined ‘the history of the defeated’, often taking the narrative form of a natural history of ruined sites, in contradistinction to the history of the victors based on the so-called 'theory of progress'.
This research project has adopted the hypothetical perspective outlined above with a view to excavating the history of ‘defeated localities.’ However, rather than contenting ourselves with micro-level studies, we hope to take on the challenge of re-locating these micro-level realities within the macro-structure of contemporary society. This signifies an attempt to make a more accurate analysis, a finer dissection, of realities that hitherto have been rather roughly expressed in such terms as ‘globalization’ and ‘alter-globalization.’ In that sense, the concept of ‘street phenomena’ is an ideal tool for thinking not just about ‘victorious localities,’ which have been verbalized and incorporated in contemporary discourses, but also the ‘defeated localities’ that have tended to be left on the other shore or to be hidden in the shadows cast by victorious localities.
‘Street phenomena’ include those of the center and those of the margins. That is what gives us the concrete image of victorious and defeated localities. Since the 1990s, Sekine has been continuing research on street phenomena in the major Indian city of Chennai (Madras). An example of dominant street phenomena would be Vinayaga Chatrthi, a city festival organized by Hindu nationalist elites, in which Hindu idols are paraded around the streets on giant floats. In contrast, an image of marginal street phenomena would be the construction of ‘pavement temples,’ mainly by members of the poverty class, some of them homeless and living on the sidewalks. Far from being unrelated to the trend toward transnationalism brought on by economic liberalization, Sekine has found that this kind of micro-level practice is actually made possible by that very trend (Sekine 2004). Both phenomena are proceeding in parallel, and it is impossible to meaningfully discuss just one of them.
However, we will not get any closer to the reality of marginal phenomena if we continue to view them simply as ‘marginal.’ In order to get a clear view of ‘defeated localities’ it is necessary to move into the ‘margins,’ and to switch our perspective to that of the marginal location. With this switch of perspective, the ‘margins’ are transformed into ‘boundaries,’ places with the potential for creative living, and the landscape changes at a stroke. A new kind of place comes into view, a borderland in which difference itself is the stake, and which conceals the possibility of imagining/creating a ‘world as it might have been’ in the space between ‘the world as it is’ and ‘the world as it is not.’
Based on this kind of vision and perspective/methodology, this research project sets as its basic objective a concrete and detailed description of street phenomena, with all the multiple dimensions concealed within it, through intensive fieldwork carried out by members of the project team and other collaborators in a variety of local societies around the world. During this four-year project, and especially in the final two years, we plan to use this detailed description as a foundation for inquiry into the methodological and theoretical prospects for delineating ‘defeated localities’ within the context of ‘transnationalism from below.’
That is to say, this project's anticipated outcomes include an accumulation of data and a degree of theorization of that data. The point of this anticipated research outcome lies in what should be the perception at the very core of the transnationalism research perspective, namely a movement or shift of the gaze with which we look upon the world. Put simply, this is a shift from a gaze that views movement as an abnormal condition seen from a fixed point of residence to one that acknowledges that mobility is in fact the reality of the world we live in. In the material accumulated to date in transnationalism research, realistic empirical studies on this perception have not been adequate to match its importance as a subject of study. This research project aims to directly take on the challenge of remedying this deficiency.
The significance of this project's research findings, which will be derived by learning from detailed observation of reality the need for this kind of shift in perspective, will lie in its contribution to an accurate grasp of the reality of the so-called ‘fourth world’ problem – that is, the problem of homeless populations within first-world societies. Homelessness here is broadly defined, with the understanding that people with fixed abodes are also in a sense becoming homeless. The fourth world has actually become more apparent as society enters the phase of post-modernity.
If we fail to adopt a field of vision that grasps the reality of this shift of perspective, and continue to gaze upon modern society from a fixed/settled perspective, we will not be able to find appropriate responses to the various problems occurring continuously before our very eyes in contemporary society – problems that have ‘the appearance of abnormality’ – and the situation will merely become more chaotic while solutions are postponed amid unnecessary prejudice and misunderstanding. It is therefore fair to describe this research project as basic research that has good prospects of contributing to society by putting to use the strengths of anthropology as a mode of study that is ready and able to change the gaze with which it looks upon the world.

Works Cited
Benjamin, Walter, 1999, The Arcades Project (originally published in German as Passagenwerk, 1927-40). Cambridge, Mass. and London: Belknap Press.

Smith, Michael P. and Louis E. Guarnizo, eds., 1998, Transnationalism from Below. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Vertovec, Steven, 1999, Conceiving and Researching Transnationalism, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22-2.

Sekine, Yasumasa, 2004, ‘Toshi no Heterotoporojii: Minami Indo, Chennai (Madorasu)-shi no Hodō Kūkan kara’ (The Heterotopology of the City: As Seen from the Space of a Sidewalk in Chennai [Madras], Southern India). In Sekine Yasumasa, ed., ‘Toshiteki-naru Mono’ no Genzai: Bunka Jinruigakuteki Kōsatsu (The Present Condition of Urbanism: Cultural Anthropological Inquiries). Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 472-512.

Sekine, Yasumasa, 2005, ‘Contemporary Popular Remaking of Hindu Traditional Knowledge: Beyond Globalisation and the Invention of Packaged Knowledge.’ In Christian Daniels ed., Remaking Traditional Knowledge; Knowledge as a Resource. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Uesugi, Tomiyuki, 2004, ‘Jinruigaku kara Mita Toransunashonarizumu Kenkyū: Kenkyū no Seiritsu to Tenkai oyobi Tenkan’ (Transnationalism Studies Reviewed from an Anthropological Perspective: The Formulation, Development and Paradigm Shift in the Concept of Transnationalism). Nihon Jōmin Bunka Kiyō (Annals of the Japan Popular Culture Institute), 24: 126-184.