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The 12th Next-Generation Global Workshop

25. Okt 2019
Faculty of Letters Main Building, Kyoto University

The Next-Generation Global Workshop (NGGW) has been held annually since 2008 to provide an opportunity for early-career scholars to present their research and to obtain feedback from an international audience. It has proved to be a pleasant and effective way for capacity building through the mentorship provided by the professors of participating universities around the world. It has also served as an invaluable opportunity for participants to learn from one another and deepen their understanding of various social phenomena in the world, particularly in Asia. Ultimately, the NGGW has acted as a forum for scholars of different generations and from various regions to build a common academic foundation by redefining Asia in a global context.

Theme: Inequalities

The 12th Next Generation Global Workshop focuses on “inequality” as its theme. Inequalities, in simple terms, are the gaps between different groups, viewed from economic, social, legal, political, symbolic and cultural perspectives, among others. The groups compared may vary in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, age, place of origin, sexual orientation, disability, social class, educational achievement, religion, caste, and so on.

For example, economic inequality has been a core concern worldwide. One contemporary issue is whether gaps in economic conditions widen together with the process of globalization. The concentration of wealth on a small proportion of the population is often criticized, raising questions about the appropriate role of the state in maintaining the welfare of its nationals through wealth redistribution policy. Moreover, we have to ask whether the state is narrowing or rather widening the gap in an age of cross-border migration and global hierarchy by delineating the borders between citizens and non-citizens.

Economic inequality is fundamentally related to the economic dynamics at the global scale. It is symbolic that strong criticism of inequality has arisen in the midst of a phase of high growth in the 2000s to 2010s concentrated in Asia. The prosperity does not always eliminate inequality. Modern economic growth frequently accompanies rural-to-urban migration, the deterioration of autonomous communities and a weakening of traditional redistribution channels, which enlarge income disparity.

But economic inequality is just one aspect of our theme. We should also pay more attention to various non-economic inequalities and their intersections. Inequalities are deeply associated with social exclusion, isolation or marginalization, and powerless people have often been voiceless and thus struggling for recognition. In premodern times, world religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam functioned as bases for those struggles to some extent because these religions were against secular values and had a strong tendency towards equality, while on the other hand also creating new types of discrimination and exclusion.

In modern times, especially since the Enlightenment, questioning and overcoming inequalities has been one of the major topics in Western thought, sometimes leading to radical social changes. But traditional inequalities never ceased to exist and the new social order brought about other forms of inequality. Also in Eastern countries, the same problems occurred in the course of modernization and Westernization.

In this process, cultural instances such as literature, art, movie, TV series and so on, which often described the situation of inequality between various groups, played an important yet ambivalent role. While new emancipatory values were proposed through those descriptions, it was not seldom the case that conventional norms were reproduced by the same means, thus reinforcing the established system of social exclusion. We must in the first place face this ambivalence in order to think about the problems of inequality from the viewpoint of culture.

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