vol.019 - On research communication in non-Japanese languages 国際発信するということ

On research communication in non-Japanese languages


Yo-Ichiro SATO

Executive Director, National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU)


A university in Tokyo convened a symposium titled “Thinking about the Whaling Issue.” Megumi Sasaki, the director of the documentary film “A Whale of a Tale” [“Okujira-sama: Futatsu no seigi no monogatari”] also took the podium with a talk entitled “Justice beyond Justice” [“Seigi no mukō no seigi”] (http://okujirasama.com/). Going beyond the issue of whale meat as a food, Sasaki argued that the antithesis of what one culture considers to be justice might not be “evil,” but rather another justice. I have been inspired by Sasaki’s words and believe that a similar problem may underlie the language we choose to use when communicating our research as humanities researchers at Japanese research institutions.

Trained as a geneticist, when I was younger, I took it completely for granted that the results of my research should be made available in academic papers written in English. However, since I was exclusively concerned with when, where, and how rice plants, which are anthropogenic in nature, descended, the specter of humanity was never far away.In that sense, my research areas of interest also fell under the humanities.

None of my English language manuscripts I submitted were accepted on the first try. For the most part, it was a process whereby I would receive some comments from the reviewers, rewrite the paper accordingly, whereupon it would be accepted and published. But occasionally I had papers rejected even after they had been rewritten. I would be frustrated by the rejection and would file away those manuscripts in stacks, and in many cases the manuscripts would never again see the light of day. Sometimes I feel they were dismissed unreasonably by senior reviewers wondering “what nonsense is this young nobody going on about?” – a practice not uncommon even in Japan. However, I also feel that there were sometimes reasons that are more difficult to explain. These were the manuscripts rejected as “unreadable” or “poorly written” even after they had been edited by native English speakers who were also experts in my research area. Why were my manuscripts judged as such?

It is said that when we think, we do so in our mother tongue. If so, then it is possible that the logical reasoning and the route we have taken to reach our conclusion will vary slightly depending on the language in which we articulate them. Perhaps our conclusions may also change in some subtle fashion. An academic paper conceived of in Japanese and written in Japanese should be expected to include something inherently Japanese.

If so, must we communicate our humanities research that contains “something inherently Japanese” in a non-Japanese language, such as, English? My answer is “Yes.” Even in the case of the “Justice beyond Justice” talk I alluded to above, there are some who will not acknowledge that there could be alternative forms of justice. At the risk of being misunderstood, this is nothing other than the doctrine of monotheism. Providing different perspectives to even those who would regard other religions as heresy that alternative forms of justice exist, that other logical thinking are possible – is this not the obligation of the scholarly humanities? And in accomplishing this, whether we like it or not, we have little choice but to communicate in the English language.

There is no need to use logical reasoning that is specific to the English discourse. What I am trying to say here is that when people outside Japan face outlooks, beliefs, and ways of doing things that are different from their own, it is our duty to take an approach that encourages those people to accept these as another justice, rather than thinking of these differences as heresies or something difficult to accept. I feel that the need for English-language research communication in the humanities lies here.

Of course, English should not be the only means of communication. There are non-English speaking audiences, such as those people who have taken part in our fieldworks conducted around the world; these participants are one of the most important audiences we should reach out to. In that sense, when considering which language to use as a means of communication, in addition to Japanese and English, we should also consider the languages used in the societies and local communities of our field studies.

As one of the inter-university research institutes, it is NIHU’s responsibility to organize wide-ranging collaborative research that a single university would not be able to accomplish on its own. I feel that the same is also required for international collaboration and research communication. In academic disciplines relating to Japanese culture, especially, I would venture to suggest that research communication in multiple languages seems to be becoming increasingly important. In other words, research communication in non-Japanese languages is an endeavor to convey how ideas are developed and arguments are made in the Japanese discourse - something we would not direct our attention to if we were communicating in Japanese.





人間文化研究機構 理事  佐藤 洋一郎

 先日東京のある大学で「クジラ問題を考える」と題するシンポジウムが開かれました。「おくじらさま・2つの正義の物語」を制作した佐々木芽生監督も登壇し「正義の向こうの正義」という話をしました(http://okujirasama.com/)。クジラ食とは何かという問題を越えて、ある文化が考える正義に相対するのは「邪悪」ではなくもう一つの正義なのではないかという主張でした。人文系の研究機関における成果の国際発信にもおなじ問題が横たわっているのではないか― そう思われてこの稿を草することにしたのです。

 わたしは遺伝学者です。わかいころは研究の成果を英語の論文にするのをごく自然のことと受け止めていました。ただ、わたしの関心はもっぱら≪イネという人が作った植物≫がいつどこにどのように伝わったかにありましたから、常に人の影がついてまわります。その意味では人文学の研究対象です。投稿した原稿は一度で通ることはまずありませんでした。たいがいは審査員から何らかの指摘を受け、それに基づいて書き直しし認められると掲載という運びですが、何回かに1回は書き直してもだめで「不掲載」の判定が下ります。不掲載の判定が下されると腹も立つし、その原稿はいったんお蔵に入れて封印してしまうこともしばしばでした。「名もない若造が何を言うか」といった、日本でもありがちな理不尽な理由での却下もあったことでしょう。しかし何とも説明困難な理由もあったように感じます。トレーニングを受けたネイティヴにみてもらった原稿を投稿してもなお「readableでない」とか「poorly written」などの理由で却下されるのです。いったい、なぜ? 


「日本語固有の何か」があるとして、それでも人文系の研究成果を英語で発信しなければならないのでしょうか。わたしのこたえはイエスです。先のクジラ論争で話題になった正義の向こうの正義にしても、それ自体を認めることすらしない人びともいます。誤解を恐れずいうなら、一神教の教義はまさにそれです。異教を邪教としか見ない相手にも、もうひとつの正義の存在、あるいは道筋の存在を言わなければならない― それが、人文系の学問の宿命なのではないでしょうか。そしてそれには、嫌でも応でも英語という道具を使うしかないのではないかと思うわけです。英語独自の論理にこちらの論理をあわせる必要はありません。違う見解、違う思想、違うやり方に相対したときに、それを邪悪なもの、または受け入れがたいものと思わせるのではなく、もう一つの正義として受け止めさせることが必要なのではないかといいたいのです。人文学の世界における英語による発信の必要性はここにあるのだとおもいます。むろん英語ばかりが発信の手段ではないし、また世界各地でおこなったフィールド研究の成果を発信する一番大切な対象の一つが調査対象となった人びとです。その意味では、手段として使う言語は、日本語、英語のほか、調査の対象地とその社会が用いる言語を考えるべきなのでしょう。

 わたしたちが所属するのは大学共同利用機関です。一つの大学ではできないような大掛かりな共同研究を組織することがわたしたちには求められています。国際連携、発信の面でも、同じことが求められているように思います。とくに日本文化にかかわる研究分野での、多言語での発信― 国内の発信ではそれほど考える必要もなかった日本語固有の思考の道筋や論理を異言語の使い手に伝えること― がますます重要になってゆくように思われるのですが、いかがでしょうか。