SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
KATO Kenta “Reconsideration of ‘Interest in International Exchange'”
When I applied for an Atsumi Foundation scholarship, I wrote “Interest in International Exchange” as my self-introduction, as follows (excerpt):
International exchange has been my longing since my adolescence. But, at the same time, it was the subject of criticism.… I could enjoy an exchange of different cultures because I have studied abroad twice. On the other hand, I perceived power relationships that exists in international circumstances. I especially the English-centrism in academic discourse space after I took academics seriously. … In my Master‘s course, I have exerted myself in reading English literature on original cinema studies and giving presentations of the studies. And I was forced to realize an inequal relationship within academia. I have been dreaming of being an active scholar internationally without any doubt in the sense of “international”. It means I have accepted the order of knowledge that America is the center without any criticism. … Now, I like to be a scholar who always has doubts about “internationality” by attending international scholar activities positively.
The sentences above were written over one year ago. When I read it again now, I think about how cheeky I was when I wrote my application documents. However, I did not want to write well-mannered but heartless sentences like “it is very meaningful that international exchange leads to a promotion of understanding of the societies and cultures of other countries”. I might have queer stubbornness, and I expressed my opinion strongly even though I could not get a scholarship”. Anyway, I was surprised at the broad mind of the Atsumi Foundation, which accepted arrogant people like me willingly.
I have already spent one year at the Atsumi Foundation. Is there any difference in my “interest in international exchange”? Now that I have finished scholarship student period, I like to look back.
Frankly speaking, I think there was no change in myself. The Foundation adopted 16 scholarship students in 2022: 11 overseas students and 5 students from Japan. We can say this circumstance is “international”. When I communicated with those students, I had a feeling that we talked about our research or universities as researchers rather than international students. The year 2022 was the first year when the Foundation accepted Japanese scholarship students, and we used the phrase “as a first-time Japanese scholarship student” very often as “epithets”. It was different from my experience that I recognized myself as a Japanese in the circumstances of many foreign students. The reason why I was not conscious of “internationality” was that I am Japanese, and we talk in Japanese. Foreign students might have different experiences. However, I had a strong impression of the theme of self-introduction at the first meeting. It was “Are you a dog person? Or a cat person? Or what kind of person?” I did not feel any aspects of international exchange in such a theme.
I have a feeling recently that “internationalization” has become stronger for the purpose of domestic benefit in modern society. The most extreme problem is a flood of TV programs that report the severe work environment of foreign technical interns, and foreigners praise Japanese wonderfulness to the skies. We can see a lot of nationalistic statements that judge an individual or country by a simple definition “Do you like or dislike?” just like “anti- or pro-Japan”. Of course, it is an exchange among nations on the assumption of the existence of nations, “nationalization”. It is self-explanatory that “internationalization” built Japan as a community. I am afraid that it becomes obvious that “internationalization” would be promoted just for the profit of the nations, not for mutual understanding.
In this one year, as I wrote in my self-introduction above, my doubt about “internationality” which comes from the practice of the word “international” is getting stronger. It is true that I had never felt such feelings at a gathering of the Atsumi Foundation. I am fundamentally pessimistic. But, as I spent this year as a scholarship student, I became optimistic either way.
KATO Kenta: 2022 Raccoon, Assistance of WASEDA University, School of International Liberal Studies
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala