The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Toward the Creation of Textology

Joint Research Coordinator SAITO Akira

Reserch Theme List


This research, aiming to construct a comprehensive textology, will consider textology in the broad sense, bridging various disciplines. Texts are a form of information processing technology whereby symbols and spaces embodied in supporting bodies outside the physical body are spatially arranged. Through stratification, this research seeks to clarify how the use of texts as media mutually affects the functioning of human beings with their surrounding environment, mutual social negotiations among human beings, as well as mutual relations among texts.
The degree of reliance human beings have on texts differs in accordance with region and era. In general, such reliance has been steadily burgeoning. Shedding light on the impact that this global trend towards texts has had on human lifestyles could have great significance in forecasting the future outlook for the relationship between human beings and texts. Since our research heavily relies on texts, delving into the history of the shift to texts is important for understanding where our initial experiences as researchers originated. We hope our research will contribute to innovation in methodology for the humanities and social sciences through refinement of the concept of texts.

Research Results

This research accumulated numerous methodological observations for issues related to how researchers in the humanities should treat texts which serve as research materials. Our findings are summarized below. This research defined texts as support bodies and visible signs that could serve as tools for various representational activities. Texts serve not only as communications media, but also as tools for various representational activities in the broad sense. Consequently our focus was the diversity of their functions in assisting intellectual activities. Past research on texts was limited to words and written characters. In contract this research examined written characters and possibilities for numerals and designs in visual expression.
This research considered the roles that tools play in the expressive activities of human beings as important themes, but concluded that things such as conversation and physical gestures, which involve representation but do not rely on tools, should not be included in the category of text. Yet this decision does not mean that we should exclude conversation and gestures from the objects of our consideration. Rather the involvement of texts gives rise to changes which should attract our attention. The use of tools creates peculiar effects and limitations, and this research at its core attempted to extract the peculiarities from the definition of text.
This research sought not just to understand the directions in which the intervention of texts takes things, but also to understand how under specified conditions human beings create, transmit, interpret, classify, conserve, discard or pass on texts to later generations. This change in standpoint made possible our understanding the special characteristics of human representational activities, which rely on tools, and to gain better understanding of the forms and functions of text as a medium.
Finally, our use of products of the humanities as texts for our research gave us actual experience, and a desire to reinvestigate how scholarly studies are conducted. In addition, we gained the perspective of realizing that knowledge gleaned from the humanities may prove useful in solving contemporary problems involving texts. Specifically, we would note problems involving literacy education in the developing countries and language transcription for minority ethnic groups.