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

Civic Engagement and Globalism in the Post-Modern Era: Japan and Asia

Joint Research Coordinator DEGUCHI Masayuki

Reserch Theme List


Since the 1980s when it was frequently used by Lech Walesa in Poland, the somewhat equivocal term “civil society” has been employed as an expression symbolizing democracy. In particular, the term has been used to indicate societies in which NGO and NPO activities are widespread. These NGOs and NPOs are also referred to as civil society organizations. In Japan following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, civil society came to be an expression applied to NPO and volunteer activities. In her book The State of Civil Society in Japan, Harvard University professor Susan Farr uses the term exactly in this context. This book served as a great stimulus to her fellow cultural anthropologists at Harvard University, and an international trend of academic studies of Japan’s civil society, primarily in the field of cultural anthropology, was rapidly spawned. This research project hopes to move in sync with the international current. We aim to consider the new altruism, emerging as an expression of post-collectivism and self-interest, as manifested in the movements for participation by citizens that stand as windows on the light and darkness of post-modern society. Hopefully this project will allow us to see how these changes compare with those in other Asian and European societies amidst the trend towards globalism. Because these questions need to be addressed, we are launching this joint research.

Research Results

Since it was first widely used in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, the somewhat equivocal term “civil society” has been used to symbolize democracy, and especially to refer to societies in which NGO and NPO activities are rife. NGOs and NPOs have also come to be referred to as civil society organizations. In Japan, following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995, the term came to be an expression used to refer to NPO and volunteer activities. This research project focused on participation in civil societies, particularly by NPOs and NGOs. This research project represented a bold attempt to apply the method generally known in the humanities as joint research to changing methods.
First, all research meetings were in English. Guest speakers who could speak only Japanese had their remarks translated into English by project members, and we proceeded in that manner. This linguapolitical method, a method intentionally chosen by the research organizer, in linguistic terms can be characterized as the selection of English as the transaction language as a linguapolitical language choice. MINPAKU has been inviting international researchers to work here, but most of them do not speak Japanese. They communicate in English. The adoption of this method has made possible the inclusion of these international researchers as key members.
Second, we have research reports and data available publicly on the Web largely in English, so as to create an environment that would make it possible for researchers who have not been able to participate directly because they reside abroad or for other reasons to exchange opinions via the Internet.
It has also been decided that those results will be published in a single volume Civil Society Studies by a global publisher.
For details on the research content please see: