Panel 3 (B-1): Issues of Research/Teaching Fields

Panel Coordinator: Shigeru Akita (Osaka University, Japan)


Panel Abstract:


This panel aims to introduce four practices of history teaching and researches at Osaka University, and will try to integrate research results of global history, Asian area studies, and maritime Asian history for university history education.

The first speaker, Akita, introduces academic achievements of the Global History division of the Institute for Open and Transdisciplinary Research Initiatives (OTRI), Osaka University, in order to create a “global/world history from Asian perspectives,” by focusing on three key research subjects: ancient central Eurasian history, early modern maritime Asian history, and global economic history, based on studies at the Department of World History, Graduate School of Letters.

The second speaker, Mukai, presents us with accumulated research results in the field of maritime Asian history, as exemplified in Kaiiki Ajiashi Kenkyu Nyumon(Introduction to Maritime Asian History), published from Iwanami-shoten in 2008, and more specifically focused on the activities of the Muslim diaspora in the middle and early modern period.

The third speaker, Sun, focuses on a thematic course centering on the history of technology at California State University, Fullerton, and his visiting professorship at Osaka University. For the last three years, he has conducted intensive research on The Century of Warfare in Eastern Eurasia, c. 1550–1683. He examines warfare in Eastern Eurasia (defined to include modern East Asia and Southeast Asia) during the period of 1550–1683 (termed the “long seventeenth century” in this project) from global, comparative, and supra-, or macro-regional perspectives. This study has two major goals. The first is to define the “Century of Warfare” in Eastern Eurasian history. The second goal is to participate in the “Great Divergence” debate (the key issue is “when did Asia start to lag behind or diverge from Europe during the early modern era [1450–1800]?”) by repositioning Asian military technology in the early modern world. By utilizing these original studies, he is planning and partly practicing at Fullerton a new course of world/global history on technology.

The fourth speaker, Ikeda, introduces a grand design (educational strategy) of history education on Southeast Asia at the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Osaka University (previously Osaka University of Foreign Studies: OUFS), as a pioneering attempt to integrate area studies into historical ones. OUFS has almost 100 years’ tradition of foreign language education and around 50 years’ in “foreign studies.” Ikeda proposes to create a course in Southeast Asia studies in order to clearly understand the current situation from a historical perspective, and to enable our students to comprehend several contemporary implications of historical studies.




Global History Studies at Osaka University


Shigeru Akita (Osaka University, Japan)


The Institute for Open and Transdisciplinary Research Initiatives (OTRI) has eight divisions, and the division of global history is the only research field for the humanities and social sciences. The division aims to create “global history” from an Asian perspective, through interdisciplinary studies of history, international relations, economics, human sciences, and cultural studies as well as area studies, in which Osaka University has inherited a rich tradition of Asian studies from the previous Osaka University of Foreign Studies. The division consists of three major research groups: (a) the supra-regional history of networks and interactions in ancient central Eurasia and early modern maritime Asia; (b) micro history in medieval Kansai (Japan) and modern China; and (c) global economic history and the “modern world system.” By combining these three groups, the division will cover a long range from ancient to contemporary times and present a totally new interpretation of world/global history from an Asian perspective.

The division is currently involved in joint research projects on global/world history, not only with Asian universities such as Nanyang Technological University (NTU: Singapore), Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU: China), and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU: India), but also with Oxford University (UK) and University of Pittsburgh (USA). In addition, we are vigorously collaborating with the Asian Association of World Historians (AAWH), an international organization for the promotion of global/world history studies in the Asia-Pacific region. By utilizing these academic exchange networks, we are producing several books and articles in English as well as in Japanese. I would like to introduce to this panel the academic achievements of the Division of Global History, OTRI.


The Role of Maritime Asian History for Global History Education


Masaki Mukai (Doshisha University, Japan)


From the 1990s, strongly critical of Eurocentric, Sino-centric, and nation-state centric views, some research groups in Japan began to adapt a new sort of regional concept such as “maritime Asia” or “maritime East Asia.” The group adapting the former concept has mainly been conducted by a research group at Osaka University and the latter has been directed by a research project based in Tokyo University. Professor Momoki Shiro, the former chair of the research group at Osaka University defines “maritime Asia” as a geographic concept in which both Asians and Europeans played roles; it covered maritime and inland regions, both connected to each other.

In the 2000s and 2010s, scholars of the first (now in their sixties) and second (now in their forties and fifties) generations in these fields produced a number of innovative researches. For example, Momoki Shiro, along with more than 30 colleagues, including Shinji Yamauchi, Fujita Kayoko, and Hasuda Takashi, published a monumental work, An Introductory Guide to Maritime Asian History (Momoki et al., 2008), which contains several articles on the structures of maritime trade in several periods and review articles on specific topics in this field. The achievements of the above-mentioned research project at the University of Tokyo have been published in a book titled A Maritime History of East Asiaas a product of the Ningpo Project (Maritime Cross-Cultural Exchange in East Asia and the Formation of Japanese Traditional Culture), which started in 2005 and ended in 2009.

The scholars of the second and third generations (now in their thirties), including Mukai Masaki, Goto Atsushi, and Nakamura Tsubasa from Osaka University, organized panels several times at the conferences of the Asian Association of World Historians (AAWH) and World History Association (WHA) in order to continue discussions. They are currently teaching at universities in Kyoto and working on a new endeavor of education for global citizens.

As seen in the cases of Syrians in Europe and Rohingyas in Asia, the problems of refugees and mass transportation of people who have had to leave their homeland has increasingly become the most sensitive and biggest social issue of contemporary globalized society. Under such circumstances, it becomes an urgent task of education to cultivate the ability of the younger generation to cope with people from diverse backgrounds including those who do not have their own nation-state. For this, the above-mentioned research activities on maritime Asian history including trade diasporas and interregional networks can make a significant contribution.


The Place of Gunpowder in the Early Modern World and the Ways of Integrating it into Global History Education


Sun Laichen (California State University, Fullerton, USA)


Based on my and other scholars’ research, I discuss the place of gunpowder technology in the early modern world (circa 1400-1800), arguing for the significance of bringing guns into the picture of history education. Accordingly, I will offer major approaches of integrating guns into history teaching at both secondary school and college levels, with the purposes of helping educators in designing curricula and programs. I divide the functions of guns into two categories: Guns for warfare and guns for non-warfare.

The military uses of guns concerns the crucial role played by guns in battles, in the “military revolution,” and possibly in the “great divergence” and industrialization during the early modern era. Though varying from region to region, the advent of guns to different degrees changed (and at different periods) tactics, fortification, battle outcomes, and even the fate of states and empires from the Eurasian and African world to the Americas. I refrain from assigning guns the decisive role, but treating them as a significant variable should be unobjectionable. I will highlight some important examples to illustrate this point.

So far gunpowder for non-military purposes such as tools for entertaining, hunting, crop protection, etc. and their cultural influence and meanings have not been sufficiently studied. As a matter of fact, even during the early modern era, the use of gunpowder was much more varied and complicated than merely an instrument of violence. Like modern days, peoples everywhere loved fireworks and (in Asia, particularly China and Southeast Asia) firecrackers; gunpowder was used in the “world hunt” of all kinds of animals (and people=slave); in early modern and even modern times, people didn’t and still do not realize that, as I argue, gunpowder technology is the one which has mostly influenced human languages (much more than any other technology throughout human history), as large number of saying, expression, metaphor, slang, puns, etc. related to gunpowder terms (gunpowder, gun, cannon, rocket, landmine, firecracker, etc.) were created (and are still being created nowadays). For instance, “so-and-so did not invent gunpowder” in many European languages means that so-and-so did not do anything important.

Gunpowder materials (gunmetal, sulfur, and saltpeter) and weapons were certainly an important part of trade worldwide, including the exchange between land and sea in Asia (mainland countries offering saltpeter while island ones providing sulfur), the gun-slave trade in Africa, the gun-fur trade in North America. I will show that in addition to silver, cotton textiles, silk, porcelain, trade in gunpowder materials was another important aspect and component of the early modern trade.

I hope to convince educators that it is meaningful and important to include gunpowder as a part of their teaching global history.


Rakhine and Rohingya in Myanmar: A Case of History Education in Southeast Asian Area Studies


Kazuto Ikeda (Osaka University, Japan)


The Rohingya issue is a serious refugee outbreak and an ethnic challenge for Rakhine and Burman peoples in Myanmar. The Rohingya people claim a long record of residence on the soil but are seen as illegal immigrants and culturally alien to Buddhist tradition by the Myanmar government and the public. The problem appears more complicated when Rakhine’s ethnic rivalry towards Burmans, British colonial rules, and Japanese military occupation are considered.

It is, however, a dispute over the legitimacy of national identities, which have recent roots both for Rohingya and Rakhine. Indeed, a brief look at the non-ethnic history of Rakhine (rather, Hindu) kingdom in the first millennium, the universal character of their maritime commerce in the Indian ocean up to the 18th century, the interdependent relations of Theravada Buddhists and Muslims, and other observations shows that Rohingya’s claims and the Burman and Rakhine reactions, which are centered in the peripheral area of the two nation-states, are modern and national.

Historical study based on Southeast Asian Area Studies concerns historical interpretations of current issues. It focuses on a comparative historiography of self-recognition of the groups involved and explains the formations of ethnic and national identities in this area. It then provides students of Myanmar studies at our department with fresh knowledge that Myanmar is not merely a Burmese-speaking world, but an area formed of many historical layers and circles of the different peoples. It also gives them the sense that our understanding of this area has not been free from a nation-oriented perspective in many ways.