African Studies at Kyoto University have expanded steadily since 1958 when the first scientific research team was sent to Africa. The Center for African Area Studies (CAAS) was originally established in 1986 with two basic research divisions (Dry Zone Studies and Humid Zone Studies), as well as a Division of History and Prehistory for visiting Japanese researchers, and a section on Data Processing and Documentation. In 1988 an applied research division (Livelihood Studies) was added, followed by a division of overseas researchers in 1992.
The traditional research activities of the Center have generally been ecologically-oriented. Earlier studies were devoted to clarifying the evolutionary history of humanity through ecological studies of great apes and anthropological studies of hunter-gatherers. Research was later expanded to other fields of study including inter-disciplinary approaches to contemporary issues.
The primary foci of our research interests are; the sustainable use and its conservation of the environment, economic activities, coexistence of multi-ethnic societies, and socio-cultural changes in Africa. The center also explores the possibilities behind indigenous practices in African societies as potential tools for a development style vastly different from Japan and Western cultures.