We usually have an image of various “boundaries” in our minds and use them as an everyday guide in life: boundaries between my family and my neighbors, my town and neighboring towns, my schoolmates and students from other schools, nationals and non-nationals, and so on. Some boundaries are visible, while others are hard to find, across which members of each group move in and out quite easily. In other words, in some cases the borderline between “inside” and “out,” between “us” and “them” is clear and impenetrable, and in others it is obscure and porous. National borders appear, at least to some people, to be the most difficult boundary to get across. However, it should be noted that, while the President of the United States has fought to build new steel barriers along Mexico’s border with his home country, you cannot find any territorial boundaries in a physical sense around insular countries such as Japan.
From a historical perspective, we might as well ask why national boundaries should be drawn there and not anywhere else. We are likely to assume that divisive factors such as different cultures, languages, religious beliefs, or “races” might have been the cause of various borderlines between human populations. Put plainly, different collective identities based on these divisive factors must have been the natural causes of national boundaries.
Two decades ago, the renowned sociologist Zygmunt Bauman flatly denied this presumption. He instead argues that collective identities based on linguistic, cultural, or religious variances as well as boundaries between social groups are equally social products created by the time/cost constraints of contemporary transportation means. According to this line of thinking, distance is not a physical or objective entity that exists there, but a result of the “limit of speed” imposed on us by our transportations. The time/cost constraints of our transportation means have thus prevented free movement of people and therefore have historically formed different collective identities and boundaries between these groups.
Transportation technology for information, capital, goods and human beings has made rapid strides since the modern era, particularly in recent decades. What does this mean for us today? It means that modern technology and information-communication technology in particular have now lifted the limit of speed and removed much of the significance of “physical distance” between various cultural areas. The characteristics of the contemporary world, such as highly information-based societies, globalization of financial markets, and massive waves of immigration into developed countries, are nothing but signs of the neutralization of physical distance.
The biggest challenge of the Faculty of Global Human Sciences is to foster graduates who are ready to face the fluid globalization trend and cooperate with many people beyond borders to solve various issues of modern society. In other words, we aim to study and act together with committed students who wish to use different skills required by contemporary society and squarely address global issues.
This world may have been, and may continue to be, an “imperfect” world, despite all efforts. Nevertheless, contemporary universities bear the heavy responsibility of contributing to finding the solution to the challenges facing the world through steadfast education and research. We are looking forward to meeting new students who share these ideals with us, so we can work together to address a variety of issues on a global scale.
Dean, Faculty of Global Human Sciences