Launching the Japan Society for Afrasian Studies (JSAS) Digital Newsletter

Vick L. Ssali, President, JSAS

Welcome to the first e-issue of the Japan Society for Afrasian Studies Newsletter. One-and-a-half years ago, on 28th April 2018, the first workshop for an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary forum for promoting both the studies on Africa in Asia and the studies on Asia in Africa was held at Doshisha University in the historical city of Kyoto. The idea for the Afro-Asian Studies Initiative (AASI), as the organization was known then, had for long been a subject of desire and deliberation at the seminar sessions of Professor Yoichi Mine of the Graduate School of Global Studies at Doshisha University.

Finally, in December 2017, Prof. Mine and some of his then current and former students invited a few other professors and scholars of (mainly) African studies for a couple of brainstorming sessions. These culminated in the April 28th 2018 inaugural workshop. We went right to the heart of Africa to find a voice of support as we planted the seeds of this memorable initiative. We invited the Ugandan ambassador to Japan, and Her Excellency Betty Grace Akech-Okullo honoured us with her kind presence. She gave an overview of the African continent in general, and Uganda in particular, in terms of her economic structure and relations with Asia. She expressed hope that AASI will play a big role in sustaining and enhancing these all-important intercontinental connections. We had also invited Oussouby Sacko, a Mali national and current President of Kyoto Seika University, and the first person of African descent to become president of a university in Japan, to be one of our key-note speakers. His story is not only one of an historic precedent, but also one trailblazing journey of transition from West Africa through a then struggling communist China to the economic miracle that was Japan. Professor Sacko, therefore, rather unsurprisingly, that any discourse on the issues affecting both Asia and Africa ought to address the all-important question of what Asia has taken out but Africa has missed from the 1955 Bandung Conference and declaration.

The success of this first AASI workshop gave the original pioneers a lot of confidence, and we decided that we should hold our first annual conference in the fall of the same year. We also decided to take a step from calling ourselves an ‘initiative’, and by the 6th October First Annual Conference at Kansai University we were calling ourselves the Japan Society for Afrasian Studies (JSAS). We confirmed all our interim office bearers into office for the next two years, and we also appointed a team from among the board members to lay the ground for our second annual conference in Tokyo during the summer of 2019. It was during one of the board meetings preparing for the just concluded JSAS 2019 conference that we decided to work on some kind of publication. We decided on a quarterly e-newsletter, in the short term, with the purpose of keeping both JSAS members and supporters connected on the issues affecting the African and Asian continents. We also decided that in the long run we should use the opportunity of our annual conferences to tap into the potentially rich supply of multi-disciplinary essays on Afrasian research. These may be uploaded as working papers, benefiting from interested members feedback, or even later to a JSAS or any other peer-reviewed academic journal. A detailed announcement and call for papers is being made on page XXX of this issue.

The content of the JSAS Newsletter will range from medium range articles on issues affecting the African and Asian continents, to short notices and announcements of interest to JSAS members and our followers world-wide. Articles may include scholarly essays, opinion pieces, photo essays, reviews, interviews, commentaries on recent news headlines and happenings in both Africa and Asia, forums and much more. Notices and announcements, on the other hand, may include such items as announcements of books and articles recently published as well as short reports on coming and/or just concluded events. We shall strive to create periodical themes as well as maintaining a consistent quarterly schedule. Although JSAS is mainly an English-medium platform, we recognise the need to accommodate other language users, to the extent that the wider JSAS membership can voluntarily process for publication, who may be interested in sharing with us on topics and content befitting a newsletter covering Afrasian studies.

  In this our first issue, I warmly welcome all of you our new readers and eagerly look forward to your contributions to the future issues. You will also find a report on Tokyo JSAS 2019 by Prof. Kinyua Laban Kithinji of Hosei University, a board member and one of the main organisers of this year’s conference, as well as the president’s opening remarks at the same occasion. Prof. Adem Seifudein presents an essay on what Africa can learn from Japan in her economic modernization, and from the editor’s desk, on another note, we look back at TICAD VII which was held in Yokohama on August 28-30. There are also a couple of important announcements in our “Events” column: Prof. Pedro Miguel Raposo Amakasu, head of our Kansai office gives a brief introduction to our first regional event that will take place at his turf (Kansai University) on 26th October 2019. Prof. Kinyua Laban Kithinji, on his part, introduces a similar regional event to be held in Tokyo in December. Japan in Africa Beyond TICAD 7: Defining the Place of African Diaspora in Japan in African Development is officially designated as a TICAD follow-up event. Both events are lined up as part of the new JSAS plan to energise our regional bases by holding regular events in between the annual conferences.

Vick L. Ssali will serve as founding editor of the JSAS Newsletter. Vick teaches English and the cultures of English speaking countries (英語圏) at Aichi Gakuin University in Central Japan. He is also founding president of JSAS (2018-2020), and his research interests include governance and human security in Africa, as well as cross-cultural communication, CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), and cultural competence.