History of African Studies at Kyoto University
The dawn of the history of African studies at Kyoto University can be traced back to the academic research started in 1958 by Professor Emeritus Kinji Imanishi and his colleagues. Initially, the research team was organized with the goal of elucidating the evolution history of human society based on ecological and sociological studies of African great apes and ecological anthropological studies of hunter-gatherers. The research field has since expanded over the years to include ethnology, linguistics, ecology, paleoanthropology, geology, medicine, pharmacy, and agriculture.
The research area has extended to Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa, Botswana and Zambia in Southern Africa, Zaire, Congo and Gabon in Central Africa, Cameroon, Guinea and Mali in West Africa, and Ethiopia, Sudan, and Madagascar in East Africa. Over the past 30 years, more than 500 researchers have made brilliant achievements, including many new discoveries, in the fields of ecology and sociology of primates (especially great apes), ecological anthropology of hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, and slash-and-burn farmers, research on fossil humans, ecology of freshwater fish and local knowledge of agriculture.
Establishment of the Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University
With the development of African studies, the Center for African Area Studies, the predecessor of the current CAAS, was established in 1986 as the first Japanese research institute specializing in Africa. The first director of the Center was Professor Emeritus Junichiro Itani, and the Center was established as a composite of the Arid Zone Ecosystem Research Division, the Wet Zone Ecosystem Research Division, the History and Prehistory Visiting Research Division, and the Information Resource Room.
Subsequently, the Division of Livelihood Structure and the Division of African Studies were established to expand the scope of academic research. In addition to research, the CAAS staff provided graduate education and fostered young generation researchers in the Graduate School of Science, the Graduate School of Agriculture, and the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies in Kyoto University.
The original Center for African Area Studies, which celebrated its 10th year of existence in 1995, was dissolved in a developmental manner and a new phase started as the Center for African Area Studies (commonly known as the Africa Center) in 1996. The department that had been responsible for graduate school education was transferred to the Division of African Area Studies in the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies. This lasted for two years.
Establishment of the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS) and CAAS
In 1998, when the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS) was successfully established, the Division of African Area Studies, which had belonged to the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, was transferred to ASAFAS, enabling the division to conduct research and educational activities under a more substantial system. The Center for African Area Studies continues to carry out various activities as with the previous Center for African Area Studies.
(1) Promotion of large-scale projects: We manage large-scale research projects such as the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (S), various JSPS research projects, JST/JICA ISATREPS project, and JICA Grassroots Technical Support Project. In addition, we collaborate with domestic and international researchers to promote research activities, disseminate information, and make international contributions. The African Potentials project, funded by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (S), has been running for five years since 2011 and continues for another 5 years until 2022. This project has produced significant results through the publication of a number of books and the organization of the annual “Africa Forum” in African cities.
(2) Collection of documents, maps and materials: The Information Resource Room has collected a wide range of books, academic reports, and specimens of animals and plants related to the nature, ethnic groups, and culture of Africa, and has made them available to researchers both inside and outside the university to contribute to the development of African studies. By fiscal year 2021, the number of books and documents collected had reached approximately 28,000. The African Useful Plant Database (AFlora), which was established in 1987, is constantly being enriched with accumulated data. We also have a collection of maps published in African countries as research materials.
(3) Publication of International Journal “ASM (African Study Monographs)”: We have been publishing the international journal “African Study Monographs” (ASM) in English and other European languages. The first issue of ASM was published in 1981 by the African Area Studies Research Office, the predecessor of the Center for African Area Studies, and it has been published quarterly since 1985. As of 2021?, we have published a total of 140 regular issues (up to Volume 41(2)) and 60 special issues. We are also promoting online open access for the published articles through the Kyoto University Repository for Scientific Information “KURENAI” and J-stage, electronic journal platform for science and technology information in Japan. The journal has been publishing articles by researchers not only from Japan, but also from all over the world, including Africa, Europe, and the United States.
(4) Dissemination of research outcomes: The monthly “Africa Area Study Seminar (Chiki-kenkyu-kai),” to which African scholars from Japan and abroad are invited, has been held 255 times by the fiscal year 2021. The Kyoto University African Studies Seminar (KUASS), which started in 2017, is held in English and has organized 97 lectures as of 2021. In addition, CAAS organizes and co-organizes various research meetings and international forums/symposiums, including research meetings for each project, to promote active research activities.
In order to give back to society, the Social Contribution Support Office was established in 2007, and we have expanded our outreach activities. Since the second semester of 2009, we have held a series of five public lectures in cooperation with the “Open University for citizens in Kyoto Prefecture” project. We have also visited elementary, junior high and high schools around Kyoto in the Kansai region to introduce the nature, society, and culture in Africa.
In addition, in March 2009, the Japan-Africa Scholars’ Network (JASNET) was formed to connect researchers and students from African countries who have stayed at educational and research institutions in Japan. CAAS has accepted a number of African researchers, has played a role in connecting African researchers in Japan with African researchers around the world and has actively conducted research exchanges based on international academic agreements.
Since 2020, a novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19) has been spreading around the world and has become a serious problem in African countries. In addition to infectious diseases, there are many other complex issues such as frequent extreme weather events, climate change, desertification, loss of rainforest, challenges affecting food production, hunger, poverty, widening economic disparity, civil war, terrorism and political instability. Based on an in-depth understanding of the nature, society and culture of the African region, we are carrying out research to find solutions to these problems.
（Photo）Inamori Foundation Memorial Hall, Kyoto University, which now houses the Center for African Area Studies
Chronology / History of CAAS
|1986||Center for African Area Studies established (first Director: Prof. Jun-ichiro Itani). Division of Arid Zone Ecosystems (one Professor, one Associate professor and one Assistant professor), Division of Wet Zone Ecosystems (one Professor and one Associate professor), Division of History and Prehistory (one Professor and one Associate professor), Information Resource Center (one Associate professor). Graduate education (lectures on ecological anthropology, human social evolution, primate sociology, tropical African agriculture, soil science, etc., at the Graduate School of Science and the Graduate School of Agriculture, and research guidance for graduate students).|
|1987||Establishment of the African Useful Plants Database (AFlora)|
|1988||Division of Livelihood Structure Research (one professor and one associate professor) established.|
|1992||Division of African Studies (Visiting research scholars) established.|
|1993||Chair of African Area Studies in the Department of Culture and Regional Environmental Studies, Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies established (7 courses offered: Ethnic Culture, Social Ecology, Livelihood Economics, Natural Environment, Livelihood Structure, Livelihood Environment, and Ecological Anthropology)|
|1995||The Center for African Area Studies dissolved into a new organization in Kyoto University.|
|1996||New start as the Center for African Area Studies
Graduate Education was transferred to the Division of African Area Studies in the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies.
|1998||With the establishment of the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS), the Department of African Area Studies was transferred from the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies to ASAFAS.|
|2007||Social Contribution Support Office established|
|2009||Formation of "JASNET (Japan-Africa Scholars' Network)"
Open Lecture "Frontiers of African Studies" begins
|2011||Start of the projects: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (S) “Comprehensive Area Studies on Coexistence and Conflict Resolution Realizing the African Potentials” and Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) “Forest-Savanna Sustainability Project, Cameroon”|
|2013||Africa Area Study Seminar (Chiki-kenkyu-kai) held 200th anniversary conference|
|2014||The 51st annual conference of the Japan Association for African Studies and the 50th anniversary lecture|
|2015||Start of the research program “Network Formation for Reconstructing the Paradigm of African Area Studies in a Globalizing World” under the scheme of the JSPS Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers”|
|2016||CAAS celebrates 30th Anniversary
Start of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (S) “’African Potential’ and Overcoming the Difficulties of Modern World: Comprehensive Area Studies that will Provide a New Perspective for the Future of Humanity”
Establishment of Interdisciplinary Unit for African Studies
The 1st Kyoto University African Alumni Association (Nairobi, Kenya)
|2017||The 2nd Kyoto University African Alumni Association (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
France-Japan Area Studies Joint Forum held
Kyoto University Liaison Office established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
|2018||Start of the project: Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) “Co-creation of Innovative Forest Resources Management Combining Ecological Methods and Indigenous Knowledge”
The 3rd Kyoto University African Alumni Association (Accra, Ghana)
|2019||Start of the project: Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) “Development and Operation Model of Plant-derived Soil Additives for Road Disaster Reduction on Problematic Road”
The 4th Kyoto University African Alumni Association (Antananarivo, Madagascar)
|2020||The 5th Kyoto University African Alumni Association (Online)
Kyoto University International Symposium “Innovation for Sustainable Development in Africa”
|2021||Start of the project: JICA Grassroot Support Project “Regreening activities using organic waste in Niamey Metropolitan Area, Niger”|
|AY 1986- 1989||Junichiro Itani|
|AY 1990- 1995||Jiro Tanaka|
|AY 1996- 1997||Yasuo Takamura|
|AY 1998- 1999||Jiro Tanaka|
|AY 2000- 2001||Makoto Kakeya|
|AY 2002- 2003||Misuo Ichikawa|
|AY 2004- 2007||Shigeru Araki|
|AY 2008- 2009||Itaru Ohta|
|AY 2010- 2011||Masayoshi Shigeta|
|AY 2012- 2013||Daiji Kimura|
|AY 2014- 2015||Shigeki Kaji|
|AY 2016- 2019||Masayoshi Shigeta|
|AY 2020- 2021||Motoki Takahashi|