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

Development and Indigenous Peoples

Joint Research Coordinator KISHIGAMI Nobuhiro

Reserch Theme List


In diverse locations throughout the world, government aid organizations and NGOs of various countries are engaged in development assistance. While development assistance is improving the quality of life for the inhabitants of various regions, some people are also suffering as a result. This research group intends to gather data on who is the subject of these actions in various parts of the world, and what kind of development assistance is being provided in accordance with what policies and plans.
In addition, we intend to comparatively investigate based on actual examples in various parts of the world to identify the problems encountered by these development assistance efforts and indigenous peoples and minority ethnic groups living where they are being carried out. We plan to determine how indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities incorporated into nation states are involved in development and the influence they have as a result of their involvement.

Research Results

This research group investigated various themes, including development issues for indigenous societies in Africa and North America as well as inhabitants in societies in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Siberia, international cooperation by NGOs, human rights, gender, development of ocean resources, cooperation in medical care, and international cooperation by the West, which yielded the following results.

  1. Development assistance provided by the Japanese government to Africa has been strongly impacted not just by the nation’s diplomatic policies but also by the view of the Japanese people of Africa as it has germinated since the Meiji Era. We therefore need to look at the historical and social background to understand and evaluate current conditions.
  2. International trends in development assistance show major changes in terms of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). These trends, while demanding comprehensive development approaches and structural reforms on the part of the nations receiving aid, also require revamping of the aid policies on the part of the nations providing assistance, by promoting a fundamental shift in methodology that encourages transition from project-type to program-type assistance, and carrying out qualitative changes to the relationship between development aid and sociology.
  3. By on a number of occasions delivering reports, carrying out exchanges of opinions and interchanges on various themes that elicited different points of view from indigenous people (Ainu ethnic group), legal experts, members of development NGO, members of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), researchers associated with universities and research institutes, and health care providers, we were able to study development assistance from multiple viewpoints.
  4. We were able to contribute to the creation of networks for cooperation and information exchanges among researchers and aid implementers (JICA and health care providers).
  5. Since development for indigenous peoples involves actors with various viewpoints and interests, we concluded that there is a need to create more forums for these actors to meet and discuss development. Cultural anthropologists can play the role of intermediary or facilitator among parties involved, including indigenous peoples.
  6. We ascertained that cultural anthropology and sociology have significant roles to play in terms of development education, research and practice on the part of the developed nations of the West. There was also shared recognition that Japanese cultural anthropologists need to attain more detailed understanding of development conditions for indigenous peoples, and do more to contribute to international cooperation and development for indigenous peoples.