11 5.2018

Special Research Training Lecture: Researching in Africa

On October 18th, a special lecture by Prof. A. Carl Le Van was held at the Graduate School of International Relations. Professor Carl Le Van is a political scientist and a visiting professor from American University in Washington, D.C. He is a leading researcher on African politics and has written three books on Nigeria including the Oxford Handbook on Nigerian Politics published this year.

The lecture was based on a set of photographs related to Professor Le Van’s research and delivered in an interactive way so that participants could ask questions anytime. He covered three main topics: 1) choice of the research topic, 2) research ethics, and 3) how researcher’s personal connections and experiences could become professional and intellectual, and the other way around.

First, he talked about his work appointment at an NGO in Nigeria and his study at the University of Ibadan and how those experiences impacted his research interest in the future. Besides major experiences, he noted an influence of smaller and seemingly accidental events like attending a conference with Attahiru Jega, the head of Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC), a highly respected scholar and independent thinker, not involved in the corruption who enabled 2011 elections to become the freest and fairest elections up to that point in the country. Professor Le Van explained that foreign aid industry around election was massive and it was easy to get wrapped up in the excitement. However, unlike many other scholars, he didn’t focus on electoral process but chose instead to study displacement issues and housing and property right in Nigeria. The government removed informal settlements regularly, and each removal rendered thousands of people homeless or without businesses. He considered it his duty as a scholar and a human to see with empathy and solidarity and bring visibility to this issue.

To illustrate this point, Prof. Le Van showed a picture at an informal restaurant called “buka” in Nigeria explaining that most people see just poverty there but after doing his research, he also started seeing uncertainty, meaning that people did not want to invest in their property knowing that it might be destroyed next week. Another illustration was a series of photos of ethnic and religious associations providing safety net for newcomers from rural areas when they move to the cities because “the state failed them completely”. One of the questions from the audience was to clarify the meaning of this statement, to which he explained that this was said in a narrow sense meaning that the state provided no legal employment, access to health care etc., not in a Weberian sense meaning the lack of coherence and good governance. Professor Le Van also commented that colonial authorities facilitated ethnic and religious associations because they replaced the state to some extent. To make sure that they are independent from the state, the associations emphasize their political neutrality and keep out of politics. Another question from the audience was whether any of those ethnic associations were involved in ethnic conflicts. Professor Le Van explained that although they live in small ethnic ghettoes and hate the current Muslim president, they are also perfectly integrated and have very good relationships with their new Muslim neighbors in the city.

Yet another question from the audience related to Jega’s experience before becoming the head of electoral committee: whether he had any relevant practical experience or only academic background. After answering, Prof. Le Van moved on to another series of photographs taken in the slums of Abuja explaining that 200, 000 people lived in one area alone and he felt his mission as a researcher inspired by a sense of social justice. He also gave advice to those doing field work to “have friends in high places and low places” and not to get flattered in the hierarchy. He showed photographs of his interviewees showing mainly men and explained that they always wanted him to talk to the person on top as he is the one to control the narrative. However, his task as a researcher was to get to those left behind without angering the first participants and to recreate the entire story.  

Professor Le Van demonstrated how his perspective was influenced by co-authors he got to work with. For instance, one of his projects was carried out jointly with an anthropologist of religion, and thanks to him, he became aware of witchcraft being practiced alongside with the oil boom and dramatic changes in Nigerian economy. This experience also helped him realize the importance of the words, e.g. a minority group was commonly called Gwari meaning “stupid people” and they reclaimed their original name Gbagyi by writing it on their housing legally protected from demolition. Another series of photos showed the process of demolition in detail. An audience member wished to know why they couldn’t build legally, to which Professor Le Van explained that the city grew too fast on oil revenues and secondly, it was difficult to get a legal certificate to build from the authorities.

Next experience shared by Professor Le Van was working in the archives at National Centre for Arts and Culture in Gambia. According to the UNESCO, 90% of the world languages are not on the internet, while the archives in Gambia contained recordings and manuscripts of those disappearing languages. The beaches in Gambia were known to have male sex workers which seems an interesting topic for the feminists.

Professor Le Van answered to two more questions from the participants: first, which impact foreign aid had on elections in the developing countries, and second, whether NGOs and development agencies still selected attractive and media-relevant projects for funding. He explained that during the Cold War, the Western aid was not provided to parties sympathetic to communists. However, with time, the election observation has become more objective, not taking sides and allowing local indigenous knowledge to lead. Secondly, he replied that some foundations (e.g. Gates Foundation) still had the same approach: finding where we are most likely to be successful and replicate the same model in other places. However, the US Aid went to places where it was most difficult to succeed. Another problem was that recipients tended to talk about their successes more than failures and lessons learned, and that current US administration was no longer using their “empirically based policy”.

The second part of Prof. Le Van’s lecture related to the research ethics and safety in the country with some of deadliest terrorist organizations like Boko Haram. He displayed the photos of the IDPs who fled from Boko Haram’s violence and were hosted by a neighboring community for several years. The host community started to feel resentment only at the point when foreign aid agencies got interested in the IDPs and helped them and not the poor locals. Professor Le Van mentioned that some Boko Haram members were well educated and resisted Western education not as knowledge but as a source of moral illness and corruption in their country. He introduced a book by a young scholar Hillary Matfess Women in War and Boko Haram arguing that some women joined Boko Haram because they learned to read and write, and they couldn’t get access to education from the government. Professor Le Van encouraged students to go beyond conventional wisdom and question the existing assumptions, i.e. that Almajris, boys from poor families would join Boko Haram when they grow up.

The final series of photographs illustrated his current research project on pastoralists and their conflict with farmers. As pastoralists are predominantly Muslims and most farmers are Christians, the tension is often portrayed as religious conflict. However, Prof. Le Van thinks that a deep ecological crisis is overlooked, the problem is over-simplified, and reminds us of Foucauldian tradition as terminology becomes important. The media commonly refers to pastoralists as “herders” or “Fulani militants” and silences the fact that the rural population massively moves to cities, can no longer take care of the farms but still want to eat meat, and they get meat from those pastoralists. The final question from the audience related to the resource trap of certain countries, and Professor Le Van reiterated a strong correlation observed between resources and democracy: namely, that by not having oil and having agriculture and services, countries are better able to survive challenges and develop democratic regimes.

09 04.2018

Office closing (9/4)

Due to the typhoon, office will be closed in 9/4.

Thank you for your understandings.

Office College & Graduate School of International Relations

08 27.2018

AY2018 Fall Semester, Apply for "Post-master's Research Student & Doctoral Research Student"

We'd like to inform you about the application guideline for "Post-master's Research Student & Doctoral Research Student".

Application Period:  (Thu.) Sep 6, 2018 – (Thu.) Sep 13, 2018

Application Form: AY 2018 Post-Master’s Research Student / Doctoral Research Student Application Guidelines

 "Post-master's Research Student & Doctoral Research Student"  System is a system for graduates of our graduate schools to continue doing research at our facilities.
 Post-master's Research Student and Doctoral research student cannot receive research instruction from faculty.

 If you would like to apply, please submit application documents to IR office.
 Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

 Best regards,

08 2.2018

Summer office our and summer break closing

-IR Office will be closed for Summer break -

Our office will be closed from August 11
to August 19, 2018 for Summer holidays.

We are sorry for the inconvenience we may cause.

*Summer Recess; From August 2nd to Sep 25th, Office Hours start from 1pm to 5pm. 
Office will be closed in August 29th for staff training.

Thank you for your understandings.

Administrative Office
College of International Relations Ritsumeikan University

Graduate School of International Relations Ritsumeikan University

07 25.2018

IR faculty's selected publications are displayed at college entrance

Selected publications of IR faculty members have been displayed at entrance of college building. 
Books are displayed with brief introduction.  

Please check the distinguished research achievements of IR faculty members! 

Faculty list >> 

This project is promoted by International Studies Association to celebrate college's 30th memorial year.  

Website(Japanese)  >> 

06 27.2018

Special Lecture given by Jilin University Professor Wang Li (US Politics and Foreign Policy)

On June 27, Special Lecture by Professor Wang Li (Jilin University) was held in US Politics and Foreign Policy class (Prof. French) .

Professor Li gave a chronological survey of US-China relations ranging from the first contacts between the two countries through to the present. His lecture detailed the shifting influences on China in the modern era and the changes in mutual perceptions between the US and China over time. His lecture was enlivened through many asides and anecdotes from his personal experiences living in the PRC.

Students enjoyed his lecture very much and particularly benefited from hearing a Chinese expert’s view of China-American relations.

6 13.2018

Whither the Japanese “Circles of Compensation” in the era of globalization? Kent Calder, one of the most influential Japan specialists, talked for College of IR

On June 7, College of International Relations and the International Studies Association at Ritsumeikan University invited Dr. Kent E. Calder as the first guest speaker for its 30th anniversary special lecture series. Dean Akihiko Kimijima of College of IR introduced Dr. Calder as one of the most important Japan and Asia specialists, and emphasized his unique career as a researcher, as an educator at prominent schools, and as a practitioner. Dr. Calder has served as Special Advisor to the US Ambassador to Japan (1997-2001) and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (1989-1993 and 1996). He is currently Professor and Director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., and will assume the Vice Dean at SAIS on July 1, 2018.

Many students from College and Graduate School of International Relations, include its Global Studies Major and American University Ritsumeikan University Joint Degree Program joined the lecture to learn from the well-known Japan specialist.

Dr. Calder’s talk was mainly about his latest book, Circles of Compensation: Economic Growth and the Globalization of Japan, published by Stanford University Press. This book can be understood as an updated and combined version of his earlier masterpieces, Crisis and Compensation: Public Policy and Political Stability in Japan, 1949-1986 and Strategic Capitalism: Private Business and Public Purpose in Japanese Industrial Finance, published in 1988 and in 1993 respectively by Princeton University Press.

What Dr. Calder tries to explain through the concept of “Circles-of-Compensation (CoC)” is how CoC in the Japanese society have internalized the benefits they can produce and how costs have been externalized to players who remain outside CoC. For instance, Kansai International Airport’s landing fee is much higher than other major international airports in the region such as Incheon International Airport. However, in the context of CoC, high price has not been regarded as a negative thing. Instead, higher price has been transferred to benefits that CoC can share together whereas external players should pay the higher cost. The question he wants to raise is whether CoC can be sustainable and continuously successful in the era of globalization when the rest of the world is competing by lowering price and rapidly changing.

Dr. Sumiyo Nishizaki, who is currently Assistant Professor of College of IR at Ritsumeikan University and served as the commentator of Dr. Calder’s talk, emphasized that CoC mechanism used to function very well as the stabilizer of the society in the era of Cold War when the Japanese economy was dramatically changing and when ideological conflict was serious enough to cause a domestic political crisis.

Dr. Calder does not disagree with Dr. Nishizaki’s view; he also admits historical contribution of CoC. Nonetheless, he continues that CoC are unlikely to work as effectively as before because CoC can keep making it difficult to reform the Japanese society and to adopt innovative changes the rest of the world would make. Abenomics’ third arrow, structural reform, remains as the most challenging task because of CoC, according to Dr. Calder.

His prescription, however, is neither collapse nor dismantling of CoC because it can be counter-productive. Rather, he suggests the following two: first, CoC can broaden the scope and be more inclusive to other domestic players; and second, CoC can also broaden the scope with cross-bordering players, internationally. His concluding remark was inspirational to Ritsumeikan Community who have been pursuing cosmopolitanism and innovation.

(Eunjung Lim)

03 20.2018

Graduation Ceremony was held

On  March 20nd, the Ritsumeikan University Undergraduate and Graduate School Graduation Ceremony  was held. There,  281 students from the College of International Relations and 15 students from the Graduate School of International Relations were awarded Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Many family members and friends of graduates, faculty and staff members were there to celebrate. Graduates will soon start their new careers here in Japan and around the world.

Graduates, congratulations and good luck on your future! 


12 26.2017

IR Office Closing (2017 Dec 27- 2018 Jan-4 )

IR Office will be closed from 2017 Dec 27 to 2018 Jan-4.

Office support will be re-started after Jan 5th 2018.

Thank you so much for your understanding.

Happy Holidays.

12 26.2017

International Workshop – Geopolitics and Security Shifts in East Asia 14 Dec 2017

Dr. Miller is a Senior Visiting Fellow with the Japan Institute of International Affairs. Dr. Hardy-Chartrand is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada. Both scholars are experts in the field of international affairs in the Asia Pacific. During this international workshop they have, in a spirit of team-work, superbly demonstrated the complex nature of politics and diplomacy in this region.


What was apparent at the very beginning of this lecture was the key role played by Washington. Nonetheless, the audience was cautioned not to neglect or downplay other regional actors and the interaction between their foreign policies – particularly that of Beijing, but also of middle-powers. The latter, so it was underlined, possess high potential with regards to the escalation and mediation of regional tension.


A major segment of the talk was dedicated to the North Korean nuclear and missile crisis. Given Washington’s current DPRK-policy’s focus of strategic pressure coupled with conditional willingness to negotiate, Dr. Miller and Dr. Hardy-Chartrand consider Trump’s North Korea policy not to be fundamentally different from that of the Obama-administration. Considering the North’s recent advances in its development of its ICBM-capability, pressure to accommodate the alliances between the USA, South Korea and Japan, on the one hand, and the role of China, on the other hand, is said to be rising. It remains to be seen to what extent a multilaterally coordinated response can be conjured, given Beijing’s recent support of UNSC Resolutions vis-à-vis North Korea while, overall, refusing to pressure Pyongyang to its fullest. As such, possible future developments in US-ROK and US-Japan relations with regards to the North Korean nuclear and missile crisis have been discussed.


During this workshop, Dr. Miller and Dr. Hardy-Chartrand outlined the overall complexity and multitude of problems in the region. Particular emphasis was put on the frequently neglected interconnectedness between the DPRK crisis, the territorial disputes in the East- and South China Seas, as well as Trump’s economic and military Asia Pacific, or rather, Indo-Pacific policies. Thereby, the fragility of relations and the danger of disputes of one matter transgressing into another were elucidated.


Lastly, attention was given to the role of Canada with regards to international problems in the Asia Pacific. Given its relatively untainted history, Canada was described by the two guest speakers to possess considerable soft power which might enable it to play a key mediating role in the region. Nonetheless, its apparently omnipresent economic interests are in danger of being perceived as a threat by some regional states which might render its potential as an independent mediator increasingly difficult.


Overall, this international workshop was a great educational enrichment for the audience. Dr. Miller and Dr. Hardy-Chartrand managed to introduce, elaborate, and simplify the complex web of regional diplomatic disputes and relations – a particularly difficult endeavor, given the time constraints of one single period.