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

An Anthropological Study of Place, Space, and Landscape

Joint Research Coordinator ICHIKAWA Tetsu

Reserch Theme List


As research whose scope includes globalization and transnationalism has become commonplace, whether research in cultural anthropology can also incorporate this expanded spatial framework has become an important issue. It is in this context that place, space, landscape, domain, and locality—all concepts borrowed from geography—have become influential in anthropology. Research involving spatial considerations, in particular on flows of people, capital, knowledge, information, media and ideologies, has become increasingly important. There has, however, been a strong tendency for cultural anthropological research incorporating concepts from human geography to remain at a highly abstract and theoretical level. Ethnographic studies designed to explore spatial and landscape theories concretely are still in their infancy. The research on place, space, and landscape conducted under the aegis of this joint research project focuses in particular on human migration.

Research Results

During this 2-year project, 13 researchers met a total of eight times. At each of these meetings, the participating researchers and invited speakers reported on the results of their own ethnographic research on human migration and discussed the presentations in terms of place, space, and landscape. Our objective was to determine the potential of cultural anthropological research on migration using these concepts. The particular sites and themes of the research were varied. However, as one meeting followed another, the value of synergies generated by discussing topics as diverse as migrant organizations, migrant attitudes toward the places where they were born, the realities of return, districts where migrants live and their spatial relationships to the host society within a shared framework was amply demonstrated. This potential was most visible when traditional forms of anthropological research focused on connections with particular places was combined dialogically with comparative research on migrants whose lives have transcended locality. Previous research on migrants had built a body of work focused on migrants from particular places. But debate that assessed its results based on a shared framework was rare. This joint research project demonstrated that when it is conducted within a framework composed of shared concepts of place, space and landscape, it provides the potential for a comprehensive understanding of previous research. Moreover it clarified future directions for comparative analysis of individual examples of ethnographic research on social change induced by expanded spatial horizons.