A research project led by Professor SAKAI Kazunari of Kobe University Graduate School of Intercultural Studies entitled ‘Establishment of a sustainable multicultural society based on the normalization of international migration’ has been selected as a ‘Topic-Setting Program to Advance Cutting-Edge Humanities and Social Sciences Research’ by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

Selected Topic

Establishment of a sustainable multicultural society based on the normalization of international migration.

Research Background

In existing research on the increase in international migration from the mid-20th century to the 21st century, immigrants have been perceived as temporary visitors. The current project was borne from the notion that it is impossible to successfully resolve various crises resulting from cultural divides unless we recognize that coexistence with immigrants is normalized.

Although the international movement of people has been temporarily reduced by the coronavirus pandemic, it is believed that this will resume in the mid-to-long term. It has been predicted that there will be a great increase in international migration in the future due to various factors.

The possibility that the receiving society will react negatively towards incoming immigrants will gradually decrease from the perspectives of humanitarianism and respect for refugees’ human rights as well as from the neoliberal perspective of securing labor, thus paving the way for increased immigration in the mid-to-long term. For developed countries with democratic systems, including Japan, accepting increased numbers of immigrants will be unavoidable.

In order for every country in the world (including Japan) to move towards accepting the international movement of people as normal, there is an urgent need to understand the underlying issues that cause divisions in societies where coexistence with immigrants is commonplace and to propose countermeasures to prevent these divisions. To meet this demand, it is essential that not only researchers but a variety of stakeholders involved in different areas of society work together to draw up methods to resolve issues based on the actual situation. These stakeholders include educational institutions, the media, government and NGOs.

In addition, as immigrants’ coexistence as members of society is normalized, it is essential for immigrants themselves to be involved in policy and institutional design as subjects, rather than objects of society.

Research Outline

The principle queries that this research project seeks to answer are: 1. Whether it is feasible to create a globally unified world while also maintaining cultural diversity and differences in individual ways of life; and 2. In what ways cultivating citizenship can bridge social divides.

In the natural sciences, it is possible to objectively determine whether something is correct or incorrect from data. However the humanities and social sciences are rooted in ‘the search for meaning’, therefore the structures of society should be clarified by drawing upon objective tacit knowledge based on the premise that diverse interpretations and values exist. This project will be conducted under the leadership of the humanities and social sciences and will incorporate knowledge of the natural sciences. It has already become unavoidable for countries, including Japan, not to foster a society that includes immigrants. In response to the queries outlined above, we shall work together to elucidate what an ideal coexistent society with immigrants should look like.

For societies that are progressing towards accepting immigrants as a normal part of society, this research project will come up with methods to avoid social division (an issue that is becoming increasingly serious worldwide), and present a vision for reconstructing societies where such division has unavoidably occurred.  

The intrinsic causes of social division are believed to be mutual distrust that stems from a lack of mutual understanding, and social structures that maintain this distrust. Therefore, it is essential that we work to overcome these obstacles.

Research will be conducted based on the following four pillars:

1. Illuminate methods to facilitate smooth communication between citizens of the host country and immigrants. Improve language learning methods and develop community support systems.

2. Identify issues with existing social policies that are indispensable for ensuring coexistence with immigrants and make suggestions for improvement. These policies include the technical intern training program, the family system and the welfare system (including the medical system).

3. Illuminate policies to eliminate media bias, which is a risk factor that obstructs coexistence with immigrants, and identify points that can be improved in immigrant-related laws and government policies. Identify measures to create a public space for immigrants themselves to take part in various decision-making processes. 

4. Establish an academic theory supported by concrete research results obtained via pillars 1 to 3. Although there have been many discussions on this topic since the latter half of the 20th century, this research group aims to revise the theory of multiculturalism (which does not provide a reality-based solution for the goal of normalizing immigrants) and present a new theory of ‘immigrant-focused multiculturalism’.

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