From area studies toward transnational studies
In 1977 I was fortunate enough to participate in the Asia-Pacific Cultural and Postcolonial Studies workshop at Essex University in England. I understand that the journal “Inter-Asia Cultural Studies” eventually grew out of this workshop. Of course, there are other origins to the journal, so I should say that this was one of the inaugural moments for it. It was an interesting workshop organized by graduate students studying at universities in England at that time, and through it graduate students, many of whom have acquired academic jobs since then mostly in countries in East Asia, could create a network and continue to work with one another afterwards. The majority of the graduate students directly involved were from East Asia, and one of the apparent reasons for this endeavor was that they were so rigidly divided into the narrower fields of specialization that they had hardly any opportunity to meet, not to mention work, with each other. Internet technology was already available then, but they were still divided not only by the barriers of disciplinary classification and geographic distance within the United Kingdom, but also by those of languages, nationalities, and ethnicities. One student working on 20th century Korean thought at Oxford had never talked with another student studying racism in Japan at Birmingham; a student at Sheffield studying educational statistics in Japan was unaware of another reading Chinese feminism at Sussex.
Naoki Sakai teaches in the departments of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies and is a member of the graduate field of History at Cornell University.