Friday, July 10, 2009

Human Seuciry and Neo-Liberalism

Professor Modjtaba Sadria participated in a workshop series titled, ‘Critical Geographies of Security’ at Bristol University on 3 June 2009.

Organised by the Critical States of Security Network within the Department of Politics, the particular workshop was entitled Beyond Neo-liberalism? South-South Realignments and New Agendas for Political Research: Brazil, Iran, Russia, India, Dubai, China, Vietnam.

Sadria’s paper looked at the rise of neo-liberalism, its strengths and the weaknesses of the theories that criticise neo-liberalism.

“In the last quarter of the 20th century the concept of soft power came to be an important tool of analysis, at least for some quarters of international studies.”

To illustrate his argument, Sadria introduced an analogy from the concept of soft power to describe neo-liberalism.

“Of all forms of hegemony, neo-liberalism could be thought of as the most sophisticated, coherent, strategic form of soft violence against the possibility of living together peacefully within each and every society in the world.”

Questions raised at the workshop asked whether neo-liberalism could still be seen as a useful unit for critical global and comparative analysis, in the wake of unanimous anti-marketism of the recent G20 summit, massive shifts in human-security and development doctrines, the rise of new forms of populist anti-market politics, and game-changing elections in India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Latin America.

In addition, participants also considered the debate that a comparative analysis of political transformation and assertion outside the US/EU could be more helpful than using neo-liberalism to assess new patterns of geopolitical alignment, political-cultural subjectivity, or political-economic structures.

The workshop drew upon the scholarship of researchers who have conducted work on subjects such as state, law and political culture, in a way that is sensitive to gender, sexuality, ethnicisation, and racialisation. From this, the workshop seeks to build a set of questions and research trajectories.

External Links*

* Critical States of Security Network (Bristol University)


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Multiple Modernities in Muslim Societies: angible Elements and Abstract Perspectives

Edited by: Modjtaba Sadria
Is there any such thing as modernity in Islamic societies and, if so, what are the identifiable elements of this modernity? Here, a leading group of thinkers and practitioners from diverse theoretical backgrounds pose the question of what it means to be modern - exploring notions of myriad 'multiple modernities' that operate beyond the Western singular definition of modern civilisation.
This volume represents a major new contribution to the debate about modernity; this volume offers new perspectives and ways of considering experiences of modernity in non-Western societies. Questions about which aspects of civilisation might be identified as the tangible elements of modernity are discussed, both within the built environment - the cities, architecture, the material cultural heritage - and within the lived environment - in culture, politics and economics. The interplay between modernism, secularism and religion is explored and the view of the religious state and modernity as mutually exclusive is challenged.

While Muslim societies are chosen as the primary focus, the subject of the discussion has clear relevance to other cultural contexts and contributes to the wider debate on modernity. Rather than pose final solutions to the ‘problem’ of modernity within Muslim societies, the contributors instead create a space for the opening, questioning and recasting of the debate. This is an important contribution to the fields of Architecture, Cultural Studies, and Middle East and Islamic Studies.



Farrokh Derakhshani
As Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Derakhshani introduces the work of the Award and its core goal of framing architecture as a social act and responsibility. As the inaugural workshop in the Knowledge Construction series, the aim of the workshop is outlined as a means of addressing the most significant issues and debates relating to architecture in Muslim societies. Derakhshani gives an overview of the layout of the volume, which includes both the papers and the subsequent, rich discussion which formed the essence of the workshop.

Modernities: Re-posing the Issues

Modjtaba Sadria

Approaches to issues of modernity in Muslim societies – whether the possibility of Muslim modernities is supported or rejected – have generally framed these issues as problems that must be solved. The opening paper discusses possible alternative epistemological approaches to the study of a plurality of modernities, comparing the dominant problem solving approach with an alternative problem-posing approach. Through its ability to problematise existing orders of knowledge and produce new ways of thinking, it is argued that problem-posing offers a more fruitful method to investigate issues relating to modernities, architecture and Muslim communities.

From Civilisations to Multiple Modernities: The Issue of the Public Sphere

Armando Salvatore

Salvatore approaches the discussion of the possibility and characteristics of Muslim modernities through the notion of civilization, and asks if we can consider there to be an Islamic modernity as part of the problematic of multiple modernities. Using Habermas’s notion of the public sphere and communicative action, and critically assessing modernity in relation to democracy and secularism, it is suggested that there exist fundamental anti-modernities in the experiences of modernity. This essay explores the fundamental tension of Islamic modernity between maintaining their core legacies, while also coping with a hegemonic, Western modernity.
Iranian Islamic Modernities

Masoud Kamali

The third essay in the volume critiques the tradition of social science meta-narratives that frame modernity as an exclusively western invention, aligned with a linear model of development. The author provides a comprehensive overview of the history of modernization in Iran, examining in particular the changing role of Islam and the relationship between civil society and the state. Kamali argues that the concept of multiple modernities opens the way to generating more socially and historically specific understandings of modernities.

Why Critical Modernism?

Charles Jencks

The contribution from Jencks discusses modernity from the perspective of critical modernism and its development and expression within art and architecture, with its intrinsic characteristics of skepticism and disenchantment. It is argued that the differences between forms and critiques of modernism to a large extent operate within the same discourse; they are ‘prefix-modernities’. This essay questions whether modernity can ‘grow up’ and move beyond this.

From Critique in Modernity to Critique of Modernity

Modjtaba Sadria

Looking from a non-political perspective at issues of modernities, Sadria underlines the social recognition of human autonomy as a prerequisite for criticism and self-criticism. The essay argues that criticism is an important tangible element of modernity, and asks how we can understand criticism as an ontological tool. A model for understanding the concept of criticism is proposed that highlights four archetypal forms of criticism, discussed in relation to two key axes: political orientation and the position of the critic. The degree to which these forms of criticism reflect underlying premises of modernity while at the same time contesting them is outlined.
Counter Space of Islamic Modernity

Homa Farjadi

The essay outlines the difference between the discourses of modernization and modernity and discusses the possibilities for lived spaces that emerge from each. Challenging conventional approaches to architecture and urban planning, the notions of ‘counter-design’ and the ‘open city’ are proposed as key ways to negotiate and bring together these two discourses in new forms of spatial modernity. The author offers a fascinating discussion of both planned and unexpected instances of this spatial modernity in relation to Islamic cities.

A Destructive Vacuum: The Marginalisation of Local Knowledge and Reassertion of Local Identities

Farid Panjwani

What are the impacts of the privatization and globalization education on local contexts? This essay discusses how increasingly universalised standards of education have led to a dissociation of education – particularly higher education – from local and national contexts. The resulting marginalization of local knowledge and local identities is discussed, as well as the space this creates for the flourishing of Islamist ideology and affiliation. A reconceptualisation of education to address these issues is outlined.
Modernity: Keep Out of Reach of Children

Fatemeh Hosseini-Shakib
This essay warns – from an insider’s perspective – of the continued presence of ethnocentrism in discourses and critiques surrounding modernity/modernization/anti-modernity. The continued presence of homogenized representations of Muslim societies is discussed, particularly in relation to Iran and Islam. The author calls for alternative critiques of modernity that adequately recognize the nuances and diversity of representations in the Muslim world.
Multiple Modernities: A Theoretical Frame

Masoud Kamali

Furthering the critique of west-centered notions of modernity, Masoud Kamali argues that the legacy of these meta-narratives still exists to a large extent in social science theory in both western universities as well as their counterparts in Muslim societies. The author outlines several theoretical suggestions that challenge these established paradigms, and contribute towards the foundation of a scientific framework that ensures a diversity of perspectives through which to understand modernity in different societies.
Some Reflections on “Tangible Elements of Multiple Modernities”

Deniz Kandiyoti

Reflecting on the key debates of the conference, Professor Kandiyoti argues that both simple and theoretically complex examples of tangible elements of modernity can be identified, and offers a succinct conceptual distinction between the terms ‘modernization’ and ‘modernity’. The author discusses the possible parameters of a theory of multiple modernities, and the need for it to address the ethical and political dimensions of the diverse manifestations of ‘modernities’.

Multiple Modernities in Contemporary Architecture

Jeremy Melvin
Melvin’s essay provides an overview of the discourse of modernity within the discipline of architecture. The particular characteristics of architecture’s modernities and how they interact with modernity in a traditional sense are discussed. The evolution of the theory of “modernism” and the historically contingent circumstances from which it arose are laid out, as well as the forms of modernity that have been inherent to architecture.

Entangled Modernity: Multiple Architectural Expressions of Global Phenomena: the Late Ottoman Example

Stefan Weber

The volume concludes with a discussion of the expressions of modernity in the architectural heritage of the Late Ottoman Empire, using the approach of an “entangled modernity”. Following a revisionist trend of historiography, this approach argues for a shared but multiple heritage. Using examples of new forms of housing and the suq in Damascus, the author argues that rather than assigning to modernity a set of binding criteria, the dimensions of modernity and social change need to be first understood within local contexts.

To order Multiple Modernities in Muslim Societies from IB Tauris click here.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

In the technocracy frontiers: lands without land?

Aobayama after the blizzard

Last week I attended a special lecture about science & technology policy in the engineering faculty. To be honest, though the name of the seminar had the word “advanced” attached, the content was basic. In general, it was a depiction of the importance of inventions and innovation in the economic titans’ history, and a description of the tools and principal conditions that made possible their development. As an example, the situation of the digital camera market in Japan was review a little more in detail.

Most of the participants were students from developing countries – Southeast Asia, Middle East, Africa and South America –, two Europeans, and no Japanese. Through the three days of lectures I learned a lot of things, from which I would like to share you a couple:

It was evident that the problems addressed by professors were totally different from those in the minds of the participants: while developed countries wonder why they do not have more and better patents, developing countries are puzzled in how to sort out violence, exploitation and poverty by investing in a field that would not assure profits in the short term.

I understood that the struggle of colonialism has changed the strategies, although territories are the same, more concretely around the issue of brain drain. It is just natural that a skillful person unable to develop her/his capacities inside its mother land, to move a place where she/he actually can. The outer way around would be nonsense. However, in making this trend to broad instead of reverse is one of the colonialist tensions of our days. The prophets of globalization devote themselves to let us think that we are practically anywhere but, at the end, what actually happens in our territories and the people around us is what really matters. A question I made to one of our colombian classmates summarizes my point: if you find yourself compelled to work as a professional in US, for example, and after a long time it is not possible for you to go back to your country, would you still be a Colombian? Would your children be Colombian? Or did the Government of Colombia nurture Americans in its territory?

Of course, it is not to blame my dear classmate, who is only pursuing his dreams. But who mold those dreams? Someone, notably my classmates, would quickly finger fragile governments and its corrupt practices, and might them have part of the problem, but who supports their corruption? Who makes those countries failed? Do themselves support a consequent view of their territory? Do they mind the diaspora? To make them go back or to improve their dissemination?

Nonetheless, these are just early questions of a study afternoon.

Another anecdote to close. When the history of technology and economy is revised after middle ages, the most prominent star is the British Empire. Several reasons are argued for this distinction, but one of them specially caught my attention.

According to the professor, Europe was hit tougher by wars compared to China, empire that leaded the world science and technology trends for most part of its history, and, thus, more pressured to new inventions that seeded industrial revolution. But my impression from China’s history is far different: only by blood could that empire be united, many the internal fights for power and heavy the attacks from the north. So the explanation should be somewhere else.

It is a fact that by the same time the first signs of bloom started to emerge in Europe, motivated by Mongolian pressure, the Chinese decided to resume an old project to confront the menace: to build a wall. It is not hard to imagine the amount of manpower and resources that the entrepreneurs needed for such venture, while the path remain cleared two hundred years for the much more practical western slaughterers. So not the incidence of wars, but a technological bet of the Chinese politicians of those days may be the real reason around this chapter of history.

The above, again, just a lucubration. But if the great wall comes to be a monument for a defeat, in the sense above argued, I wonder if one of the coming walls, that in the middle of a dessert in the north of American continent, is not another sign. Time will tell.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

International Workshop on Environmental and Health Risk for Sustainability in Developing Countries

Some notes about Uzbekistan

The end of November this year was distinguished by range of international workshops and special lectures by UN representatives and foreign researches. Most of them were dedicated to the issues of Human Security and Sustainability. Unfortunately, most of the lectures and presentations had one same important detail – the concept of Human Security is not known well yet even in the academic and administrative, such as UN, levels.

Here, I would like to write about the “International Workshop on Environmental and Health Risk for Sustainability in Developing Countries” held on 27th of November. In my report I suppose to focus on the presentation of Uzbekistan scholar Dr. Khakimov N.[1] with addressing some of my critical points. I am going to touch on the problem of Uzbekistan state control on environmental degradation and pollution issues that was presented by Dr. Khakimov.

As was said on the workshop there are a lot of environmental issues in Uzbekistan that impact not only nature, but also human life, such as desertification and water shortage, air and water pollution by industrial and municipal waste and contamination of soil by pesticides, radioactive wastes’ burning, etc. Also we have some research institutes that are working under the government for evaluating the problems of environmental degradation, such as State Committee on Nature Preservation, Uzgeocadastre, Central Asian Research Institute on Irrigation – SANIIRI, Hydro-meteorological center and many others. But truly speaking, the state “control” and research institutes’ “tackling” with the environmental degradation and its impact on human in Uzbekistan remain insufficient and very weak.

The formation of the perfect system of ecological security on the basis of the international legal experience, achievements of a modern science, technique and technology is one of the basic conditions of ensuring the national security of Uzbekistan[2]

“Perfect ecological security… for national security?” - These words clearly express the idea of state security. But do the state capable to achieve that “national security” through “perfect system of ecological security”? Unfortunately, “the lack of state capacity is one of the main constraints hindering environmental protection in Central Asia. State capacity is generally defined as the ability to implement policies in order to achieve economic, social or political goals”[3]. The ability of Central Asian governments to carry out domestic and regional policies for environmental protection is contingent upon creating new domestic institutions as well as horizontal linkages among the organizations and their staffs. Yet such horizontal linkages were absent during the Soviet period[4]. And even now, there is no sign of the efficiency of governmental policy according environmental issues, as well as cooperative work with the research institutions and society to implement their policies. Moreover, it seems that the final target of government in “combating” environmental degradation is not social or individual security and well-being, but the state security.

I think the report of Dr. Khakimov was a kind of idealistic and perfect re-presentation of Uzbekistan environmental situation with simple introduction of a list of adopted laws and regulations concerning nature protection and ecology in Uzbekistan. Nothing was said about the very process of tackling with the problems, what difficulties and advantages the government of Uzbekistan met on the way of addressing the environmental issues. How was efficient or not the taken measures? How it could change the community’s life, the conditions of environment? How is that list of laws “working” in Uzbekistan? Do all people know about the laws and how do they obey to? What do citizens know and what do they think about the environmental issues and the possible risk to the human? Aren’t the answers on these questions can show the level of state capacity? No word from the presentation of Dr. Khakimov could explain the questions mentioned above. Unfortunately, it made me remember such kind of reports that were typical in Soviet period: general facts, lists of data and charts are summarized in general paper, without any attempt to criticize, using idealistic proposals in the conclusion.

[1] “International Workshop on Environmental and Health Risk for Sustainability in Developing Countries” (2006) pp. 53-65, Khakimov, N. State regulation peculiarities of the economy of wildlife management and ecology in the Republic of Uzbekistan

[2] “International Workshop on Environmental and Health Risk for Sustainability in Developing Countries” (2006) pp. 53-65, Khakimov, N. State regulation peculiarities of the economy of wildlife management and ecology in the Republic of Uzbekistan, pp.53

[3] Barkey and Parikh 1991, 256. Cited by Erika Weinthal, (2004) The transformation of Central Asia states and societies from the Soviet rule to independence, p.247

[4] Erika Weinthal, (2004) The transformation of Central Asia states and societies from the Soviet rule to independence, p.248

Kamilla Rudakova
Tohoku University
Graduate School of Environmental Studies
Post-Graduate Programme in Human Security
Master studend (2nd year)

Well, actually it is my first attemt to write some critical paper, and I think there are many mistakes in it as well the discussed critical points are not perfect... But do not be so strict, everything sometimes have to be "for the first time" (as this my paper).


Monday, December 18, 2006

Human Secure Mumbai vs. The Sustainable Workshop

Around “Poverty and Human Insecurity in Munbai: Social and Environmental Issues” paper by professor D. Parthasarathy for the International Workshop on Environmental and Health Risk for Sustainability in Developing Countries. November 27, Tohoku University.

Naked trees in a well-covered Engineering Faculty
by panÓptiko

Last November the above mentioned workshop was held in Tohoku University, giving a stimulating opportunity to have a look on the understanding of sustainability that the Center for Advanced Inter-Departmental Studies in Science and Technology (CAST) and the Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S) embrace.

Talk about sustainability implies to go a step beyond traditional academic model of the reality and adventure in the realms of complexity, where the concepts from different disciplines mutate and interlink to create nets to catch and support a collapsing world – that world depicted in the sustainability discourse.

Human Security (HS) was not in the agenda but you could feel it in the air – well, when you get tightly involved with something you usually feel that presence everywhere – and just in the final lecture it was summoned to complete the discussion. I will take advantage of this opportunity to analyze the connections between the two concepts out of the presentation of professor Parthasarathy, relations between the presented papers and further implications.

Light over Poverty and Environment links

In his paper, professor Parthasarathy begins sketching the particularities of the city of Mumbai, where the case study was located. The city is the largest of India in terms of population, characterized for having strong commercial, financial and business capital activity. According to the web page of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai 1, the population is around the 13 million, from which around 60% lives in slums. Given the economic power of the city, migration is also important part of this percentage.

On the other hand, in the last years Mumbai has been affected by rains heavier from the expected during the monsoon season, leading to flooding, water logging and landslides that affect more dramatically the slums’ population, because of its location near dangerous river basins and vulnerability. So, by now, we have an environmental event and the slums as a social offspring of a given way of life, or economic model.

Introducing the other actors of the social system, the government of the city is called “nativist / chauvinist”, what comes to explain how a 60% of a population is not respected by its government; most of NGO vocals are regarded as representatives of the rich and corporation’s interests, while just a minority of those NGO and sectors of the media offer some resistance. Thus, the picture is one of 60% of inhabitants of Mumbai denied from the development framework.

Besides, the author adds, the city is not technically prepared to manage the amount of water from these strong storms, even the system is branded as “outdated”. Also, the river presents a lack of flow due to high pressure pollution from industries of the city, collapsing into the tragic loss of lives and property, among effects to the whole city system. The door is open to propose a technocratic solution, which in fact is taking place, but placing as priority zones with presence of industries and multinationals.

Once depicted the reality, the final linkage to human insecurity is set in terms of discrimination – slum-dwellers are marginalized - , lack of power – slum-dwellers have no voice in planning solutions to their problems - and vulnerability derived from poverty – no means to afford a sound life. The message is to include a socio-economical component when addressing environmental risks.

The total image is an interesting approach to broad the understanding of the difficult situation the slum-dwellers have to live with. Slum dwellers seem to stand alone and defenseless in the middle of the daily life struggle in the big metropolis. Nevertheless, the build framework is not unique to the Mumbai case, but common for slum dwellers all over the world 2. The presented economic, political and social conditions of deprivation are shared characteristics of this societal group, and their final spatial location inside the cities always present a high grade of vulnerability, in terms of either physical, chemical or biological risk – social risk, appropriately presented by the author in terms of mafias (internal) and political populism (external) are degenerated out of the initial conditions. Hence, the article is an excellent starting point to materialize a puzzling problem sometimes too generally treated in the bibliography, but there is a whole path open into the insights of its particularities to enable proper action.

Human Security concept is people centered, and as top-down as bottom-up oriented. In order to achieve this two, it aims protection and empowerment 3. This empowerment that is aimed asking to “perceive and treat slum dwellers as dynamic economic agents” in professor Parthasarathy paper could derive to a failure if, for every case, the actual meaning of “slum dwellers” is not thoroughly understood. As an example, the article shortly mentions migration influence, but the real impact is never showed; and, what from an ignorant about Indian society would be more interesting, the grassroots implications of the castes systems and different religious backgrounds when treating slum dwellers as a whole should be openly considered and reflected in the final recommendations for the ongoing plan.

The author clarifies that the research is going on, being of huge interest to follow its conclusions and consequences, as an outstanding effort to give appropriateness to real life problems solutions from the HS paradigm.

The Technocratic Stance

Through the base paper the HS concept utility could be seen as a way to kill two birds with a stone: an environmental emergency makes a social problem unavoidable, and HS helps the decision-makers add socio economical programs along to laws, taxes or civil works, so they assure sustainability in the long term. This presuppose that the latter do not include the necessities of those endangered, leaving in the air a sense of badness in the word technocracy. However, most of the presentations of that morning in the seminar could be catalogued as “technocratic” and no body said a thing. Diplomacy or indifference? I do not pretend to solve this question but to look from this point of view to briefly analyze the other papers and the coherence of the conference.

I will start with professor Jofre work around economic indicators to viral contamination in water systems. It was an illustrative journey around the biological pollution issues of water treatment and how simple methods – bacteriophages in this case – could be useful to estimate a remaining viral activity in treated water, in order to adjust the procedure to guarantee safety, or at least raise awareness. The limiting factor, as promptly pointed by a professor in the conference, was that the lack of proposals to correct the evidenced problem, then increasing the level of information – or stress – in an instable and lacking of resources system. Underlying, there is also the conception that “for developing countries” mean that you should work with the most cheap option, but once I heard a Japanese expression that says something like “I am not enough rich to buy cheap things”. This deserves more discussions but deviates from the theme, so I would leave it just as an aside reflection.

Later, Professor Wagner talked about advances on flooding forecasting systems. It was fascinating to foresee the possibility to avoid catastrophes like, fortunate coincidence, those occurred in Mumbai. In this moment, the model is still being refined to accomplish its aim but, from the talk, it seemed promising. The research is being held in the United States, so when the discussion turned to developing countries it was addressed a lack of information to make the model work in different basins. The asserted causes of this absence were no money or interest to maintain the operation centers that collect this data in those countries, so the project went to the sky: some attempts of using satellites information were commented with no clear prospects of success. Anyway, this valuable option unveils some grade of disconnection between academic and practical solutions, or, at least, not real link – or interest to have it- to work with those countries which also need of these technologies. Someone from the public asked why not to use the knowledge from the affected people to model and set strategies to overcome flooding emergencies but, in my opinion, although it has sense, this is not the specialty of the team, which is making a wonderful work, so are not the ones to blame.

Finalizing this conceptual line, professor Tadukar presented advances on Down-flow Hanging Sponge reactor, to complement UASB units, under the title “Sustainable Wastewater Treatment System for Developing Countries”. Positive proofs were presented about the benefits of this technology in terms of quality and price, pinpointing the excellent features the developed material presents. Nevertheless, from the root, the concept of developing countries – field results were get in India, lucky coincidence – seem a little constricted: countries were there is a UASB system that does not work well. So the doubt if the intention is to develop an integrated and better treatment system or to correct some mistakes from the past persists.

A Sustainable Conference

Sustainability science, in words of professor Kensuke – IR3S host of the conference - , “… is a new, transdisciplinary field that seeks to address the urgent problems we face in this century by developing visions and strategies to create a sustainable global society.” Given this, the conference was very successful, because all the talks offer a vision and suggestions for a better world – with his positive and negative aspects. However, there seemed to be a missing link that miraculously appeared from the coincidence of the presentations above commented to talk about India 4.

Human Security is not better or worst, superior or inferior, to the Sustainability concept. Maybe tightly related, but it is - and should never be, I believe - the point. What professor Parthasarathy paper remind us is to close the linkages between the disciplines – what is different to gather them together -, tie them to the territory – although somehow directly related to India, it was never felt they were talking about the same country - and, more punctually, to the people.

Professor Kensuke, talk also from three systems: global, social and human, and interaction between them as object for sustainability science to work on. Maybe Human Security can help as glue, coherently joining the branches of the system, and even taking out from the definition the defined concept, fact that sometimes make us feel in an unfortunate loop without exit.

1 See:
2 Complete information could be found in the UN Habitat webpage,, specially “The Slum Challenge” Report.
3 All of these, basic concepts detailed in the final report of the Human Security Commission.
4 I should apologize to the other magnificent speakers from Uzbekistan, Thai and India, for not talking about them here because of restrictions in space and the nature of my argument.

Oscar Andres Gomez Salgado
First Year Master Student
Human Security and Environment Program
Professor Kimura Laboratory
Tohoku University

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

When talking about Human Security!

Source: BBC news

It is about one month and half since Tohoku University has been holding series of seminars, workshops and symposiums- which I mention below- around main titles of environment and human security. And I think, they were a good way and opportunity to introduce, compare and discuss… and so on. Therefore, as a human security student, with consideration to that kind of application and objectives I was excited and expected to attend to them. I made myself ready to catch and note the main ideas- even opposite- of the lectures, especially, for my study. So, I listened to the whole speeches from the first until the end with my whole mind, heart and body. However, unfortunately, they did not satisfy me or, in the other words, I was a little disappointed (and, according to some of my classmates, I was not the only one)

In general, there were some lectures with lacks of concepts, or using sets of concepts in one single article, and at the same time there was not concentration on any of those concepts. Sometimes you could see some mess or absence of essay-writing methodology.
As I said above, the main title was environment and human security, but, the most of the lecturers, even didn’t make clear their position about one of these questions rising from their topic such as what, when, how where, and why human security or environment approach made differences in their field, or even if it was not important. So from this point of view, I found out that they could be divided into the two kinds.

First, those who were not quiet sure about what human security is in their point of views. And, second, those who addressed human security concept commensurately with top- down or down to top, in an absolutist way. Also, there was a recurrent focus on individual as mean as Neo-liberalism approach instead of human security, which focus on people as they are and want to be. However, some of the lecturers were high operators or diplomats of UN (UNDP, UNHCR…) who were supposed to work in real world so have some experience in their field matters, but unfortunately their reports, did not grasp their target point of view. Anyway, human security is a new and widely use concept, and it is the first step to look for more appropriate seminars and innovative looks to tackle the issue. Therefore, we should be familiar with different and various point of view on human security concept for now and the future.

Lectures held:

Human Security and Refugees: how the human security approach made differences in refugee relief works?”( lecturer: Mr. Robert M. Robinson)

Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S) &Center for Advanced Inter-Departmental Studies in Science and Technology (CAST)"International Workshop on Environmental and HealthRisk for Sustainability in Developing Countries"

Date: November 27th, Monday, 2006Place: Aoba Memorial Hall, Tohoku University, Sendai,

Japan Chair: Dr. So Ka (Tohoku University, Japan)09:00-09:10 Opening address by Prof.

Tatsuo Omura (Tohoku University, Japan)09:10-10:10 Keynote speech by Prof. Joan Jofre (University of Barcelona, Spain)“Development of indicator for viral infectious risk evaluation from a view point of safe waterutilization in developing countries”

10:10-10:30 Introduction of IR3S by Dr. Kensuke Fukushi (University of Tokyo,
Japan)“Creating strategies for global sustainability”Session 1: Water and Wastewater Management for Sustainability in Developing CountriesChair: Dr. So

Kazama (Tohoku University, Japan)10:50-11:25 Dr. Thorsten Wagener (Pennsylvania State University, USA)“Floods and environmental risk – A distributed real-time semiarid flash-flood forecasting modelutilizing radar data” 11:25-12:00 Dr.

Madan Tandukar (Tohoku University, Japan)“Sustainable wastewater treatment system for developing countries”

Session 2: Environmental and Health Risk for

Sustainability in Central AsiaChair: Prof. Yoshihiro Kimura (Tohoku University, Japan)13:30-14:05 Prof. Nazar Khakimov (Tashkent State University of Economics, Uzbekistan)“State regulation peculiarities of the economy of wild life management and ecology in the Republic ofUzbekistan”

14:05-14:40 Dr. Makhamatjon Kasimov (Tashkent State University of Economics, Uzbekistan)“Agriculture and environmental issues in Ferghana valley”

Session 3: Environmental and Health Risk for Sustainability in South and Southeast Asia

Chair: Dr. Toru Watanabe (Tohoku University, Japan)

15:00-15:35 Dr. Krittiya Lertpocasombut (Thammasat University, Thailand)“Why diarrhea still being found in developed areas? A preliminary observation in Khon Kaen municipality, Thailand”
15:35-16:10 Prof. Pushpa Trivedi (Indian Institute of Technology, India)“Agricultural policy in India and its impact on environment, food and health security: With special reference to Maharashtra”
16:10-16:45 Dr. Devanathan Parthasarathy (Indian Institute of Technology, India)“Poverty and human insecurity in Mumbai: Social and environmental risks”
16:45-16:55 Closing address by Prof. Yoshihiro Kimura (Tohoku University, Japan)

Human Security and Poverty Reduction
With focus on Reproductive Health and Gender”

Ms. KIYOKO IKEGAMI, Representative
UNFPA (United Nation Population Fund) Office in Japan
Food Security and Human Security”
Ms. MIHOKO TAMAMURA, Representative
WFP (World Food Programme ) Office in Japan
From 14 h 00 to 17 h 30
PLACE: GONRYO ALUMNI HALL (Large meeting room; Phone: 022-227-2721)
Language: English Admission: Free

Here, I think I must make an exception from the lectures, because I think, the one below which was represented by Mr. Shigeki Komatsubara, really grasped the concept and tackled the core idea about human security in his field of study.

Human Development and Human Security in Africa: case study on a human security project
Date: 15 November 2006
Lecturer: Shigeki Komatsubara
Country Programme Adviser
Southern and Eastern Africa Group I
Regional Bureau for Africa
United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) New York HQs

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Japan: Parade of Laws and Rules. Citizens Watching!

The 18th of October, the title of an editorial of The Japan Times kept my attention: “A more user-friendly legal system.” Since the task of this report was recently assigned, I followed the content critically. The theme of the article was a new support center for citizens with legal problems, intended to close people to the justice administration. In few words, a subsidy for the use of legal services. I found this fact very surprising and at the time illuminating to guide this report. Why should Japan make such effort? I was pretty sure that all kind of the disputes that are subject to legal intervention – from a Western logic – take place in everyday Japan, so what do people rely on to solve this problems if not laws? The following are just the initial findings from a restricted bibliographical review about the topic, in which the intention was to find, out of some issues of common life, the role of laws and norms.

Brief definition

Mr. Mark D. West[1], in a revision about how decision making in the world of Japanese Sumo, presents a conceptualization for the terms law and norm in order to accomplish his study case. First, Law “refers to legislative and judicial provisions as well as the organizational rules […]”[2] the latter referring specifically to those approved by a governmental institution, such a ministry. On the other hand, norms are constrains that come directly from the society, which regulate many transactions in the real life but are not enforceable by legal means.

To illustrate the concept of norm, herby reproduce a classification of them presented by Ellickson, cited by West:

“Ellickson categorizes each rule and norm as one of five types: substantive (rules or norms that ‘define what primary conduct … is to be punished, rewarded, or left alone’), remedial (provisions that dictate ‘the nature and magnitude of the sanction to be administrated’), procedural (provisions that ‘govern how controllers are to obtain and weigh information’), constitutive (provisions that ‘govern the internal structure of controllers’), or controller-selecting (provisions that govern the ‘division of social-control labor among the various controlers’).”[3]

The connotations of these definitions in the world of Sumo would be addressed at the end of the report.

Historical Hints

When adopting an historic point of view, it is easy to follow the origins of the present Japanese legal system. During the Meiji Restoration, in the process in which Japan finally opened its doors to the rest of the world, it was a priority to catch up with the Western societies. Regarding the legal system, it meant the government to quickly adopt German and French codes to rule the territory. However, nothing was made about morality and customs of Japanese people, neither the regulations adjusted to their reality. In fact, aware of the incompatibility between the Western values around democracy and the monarchical model adopted, the Meiji leaders restricted the introduction of the former ideas and elaborated kokutai – an explanation of Japanese about what is Japanese.

It has to be taken into account that also the Japanese constitution, established after the defeat in the Second World War, was an imposition of the United States, instead of a reflex of citizens’ claim for structural changes in the government.

Evidence of the existence of this duality of codes could be followed – along with an open criticism – through the essay “Darakuron” (“On Decadence”) by Sakaguchi Ango, in 1946[4]. In it, the author openly recognizes the division when he states:

“It has been said that one reason the Tokugawa Shogunate made the decision to refuse a pardon to the forty-seven loyal retainers and uphold the punishment condemning them to commit ritual suicide was due to a feeling of paternal sympathy, for if the retainers had lived out their lives to old age they would have suffered the shame of public display and someone would surely have appeared to tarnish their names. Such human feeling does not exist in today's laws. But it does remain to a large extent in the people.”[5]

Beyond the duality, the author give clues of a long tradition on this class of rules or norms, at the time he starts an argumentation of its consequences, focusing on codes as the Bushido and the figure of the emperor.

Linking to go into detail, two quotations from a research made in 1953 - when the studies were somehow more related to understand why Japan went to the war – detect the two sets of rules and also introduce us to the explanation of the situation. The first, Kerlinger citing Reischauer about norms, finding “… ‘a far more rigid adherence to a detailed set of social values’ than we know in west.”[6] And then, from interviews about educating children in their first stages of life: “One parent in Takashima said that she never forced the child to sit properly, but that when children get to about three, they understand how things are done.”[7] Like everyone, no?

Two worlds

Fostering the reasons of the low crime rate in Japan, compared with other developed countries, Komiya presents a very comprehensive explanation of the cultural roots of the situation[8]. The duality enounced above came to fit perfectly the Japanese perception of their social environment. This is one divided between the people who belong to their group – uchi ( or ?), which includes the people in the home, the company, the university, etc. – and the outsiders – yoso. Consequently, when dealing with individuals belonging to the latter, it is expected to make use of the law, while for the “house” the giri – Japanese traditional duty – should be enough to solve any kind of inconvenient.[9]

The giri that rules the inner world, far from a fixed code, is a kind of obedience and dependence bond to the superiors, different to every specific case, tied to the characteristics of the linkage, “particularistic, personalistic and relativistic”[10]. Examples or the way it works are:

  • When two parts sign a contract, they are expected to become members of a same uchi, so they hesitate to ask about the written details, because could be offensive to the relationship.
  • Japanese do give small, if any, gifts to their relatives, while they give ostentatious presents to their bosses twice a year.

Figure 1. Comparison of Individual consciousness between Japan and the West

Source: Komiya, 1999. Pg. 376

The benefit from abiding the giri is a paternalistic support of the bosses and, as a result of the sum of the whole uchi’s giri, the comfort of being able to rely on the group while one is doing its job. Nevertheless, as this reward is subjective to the discretion of the superior, disagree and tension may arise when someone is not satisfied with his part. In these cases, any confrontation is avoided because it would menace the harmony of the uchi, thus it is resolved by mutual understanding or the intervention of a third part, which must be also part of the uchi.[11]

The uchi relationship has an important peculiarity: it strongly depends on the territory. The links between the members of an uchi resembles more a neighborhood than an academic community. Hence, the action of giri is also one that aims to homogenize the big disparity between the backgrounds and attributes of the members, instead of motivate talents. To do so, rules of conduct plus emotional commitment are equally addressed. Besides, out of the complexity of managing the diversity of the group, the amount and detail of norms that govern the conduct inside a given uchi tends to be enormous. These norms include features on decorum, morality and civility, such as “modes of speech, dress codes, bowing manners, and even styles of walking.”[12]

From the territoriality and the giri, it is clear that the uchi has a characteristic vertical structure, commanded by seniors instead of the particular merits of the members. Therefore, in this organization it is important to: rank the members for their contact to the group (time) instead of their capabilities (merits); then, place little weight in the difference among comrades; and have a common objective around which all of them fight, relying in the complex set of rules to satisfy disparities.

To sustain this kind of social structure, it is essential to maintain a strict control over the members of the group, so the rules are not forgotten or transgressed; but as the uchi is ruled by such a complex network of norms, it should be introduced by long training periods in the companies, morning assemblies, communal night drinks and pleasure trips. People who are not obedient to the rules is acknowledged and reconvened. If the behavior continues, they would be excluded. So normal Japanese are tight to a constant conform of social norms and respect to the seniors, making them to look for the existent rules – or to imitate the reaction of a superior - when a new situation comes, before acting by universal principles.

By contrast, the yoso world could be seen like a wild place where it is not possible to rely on the trust of anybody. Then, the legal codes come into action, although with a small change: given the duality stated above, laws recognized as external, either are used as corresponding to an egoistic effort to prevail, disregarded as inexistent, or scorned as obstacles to the natural behavior[13]. Examples of those attitudes could be, in order: sues about impact of pollution on citizen’s health, the short concern between population (with very important exceptions) about human rights, and the great amount of bicycles parked around the downtown of Sendai – where it is clearly prohibited to do so.

Additional outcomes of this social structure – worth to be at least enounced here – are: the difficulty to belong to two or more groups at the same time; the high value placed on people self-control, required to manage the amount of codes; and also the high level of elaboration on details beyond the norms – in the uchi or any permitted hobby – as it is the space to develop their individuality.

The Thread in different Nets

Although just one part of the big range of causes a real-life problem can have, looking to the peculiar glass of the Japanese culture of groups and the giri could be crucial to understand the state of affairs on every issue which involves social participation in the country. Hence, according to findings and my interests, I present here some issues from the literature with comments over the presented perspective.

Crime rate in Japan[14]

Accepted the above framework, the author points two more facts related to his objective: the Japanese type of group is much more inclusive than the Western, because of their territoriality and the homogenization of their members abilities; and the subjection and appreciation of members of the group through their conform to the complex set of norms, what makes them more aware of not misconduct in anyway during their daily life.

However, there are Japanese criminals, which the author groups in four categories:

  1. Individuals who do not care about the uchi, do not understand it, or do not develop enough self-control.
  2. Criminal norms respected from the head of the uchi.
  3. Crimes without victims cannot be controlled.
  4. Those exiled or who fled from the uchi.

Tobacco and Alcohol Control[15]

Although these two issues are relatively different in their economical background, their common roots in cultural practices and the relative failure in their control could be a clear link between their realities. From everyday life in Japan, the high level of consume of alcohol and tobacco is evident. Furthermore, this practices fall into the group activities to tight contact. In few words, relating to the scope of this work, the two articles reviewed in the issues show that no deep legal measures have been developed to counteract their impacts on society, even though scientific data is plentiful. Most of the actions are related to reports by the ministry and voluntary regulations adopted by the companies. No special political support was given to the citizens groups, while economic measures were somehow weak – with the exception of beer and whiskey for its special characteristics. In the chase of tobacco, political will its being changing with a lag of 30 years, on which courts have generally rule in favor of the companies. The mass media role seems to be limited to make public the facts, but with no role on social control.

These facts leave questions on assumed images from Japanese people: their awareness around health and their trust on science. Also it would be interesting to make further research on the characteristics of Japanese democracy.


The author focuses into demonstrate how the presented social structure and set of rules is closely related to the behavior of a company. In this sense, the norms assure economical control in the organization, best allocation of resources and reduction on transaction costs- or avoidance of tasks that would require big effort for resolution, as the eligibility of elders and directors in the association. Extrapolating, these advantages from the normative structure should have relevance in explaining Japan’s economic miracle, issue not reviewed.

Other comments

Komiya, at the end of his article, points out that the normative model of Japan and the West differ in the punishment expected to the offenders, being it deprivation of membership to the members of the former, while stigmatization for the latter. But, bringing the considerations around AIDS that guided the seminar this semester, it would be interesting to analyze how a stigma would alter groups not used to manage that kind of exclusion. For example, some success in western countries to counteract alcoholism and tobacco consumption has been stigmatization of those groups. Could this have relation with their failure? Could it help to reorient or understand public health measures adjusted for Japan? I hope not being so naïve making these assertions – or at least be on time to wake up.

[1] West, M. Legal Rules and Social Norms in Japan’s Secret World of Sumo. Journal of Legal Studies. The University of Chicago. Vol. XXVI, January 1997. Pg. 165-201.

[2] Ibid. Pg. 167.

[3] Ibid. Pg. 168.

[4] The text use in the research was the translation provided in: Smith, I. Sakaguchi Ango and the Morality of Decadence. University of Oregon. (Last accessed, November 15, 2006)

[5] Idem.

[6] Kerlinger, F. Behavior and Personality in Japan: A Critique of Three Studies of Japanese Personality. Social Forces, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Mar., 1953), pp. 255

[7] Ibid. Pg. 254.

[8] Komiya, N. A Cultural Study of the Low Crime Rate in Japan. British Journal of Criminology. Vol. 39, No. 3, Summer 1999. Pg. 369-390

[9] Ibid. Pg. 371- 372.

[10] Ibid. Pg. 372.

[11] Ibid. Pg. 374.

[12] Ibid. Pg. 377- 379.

[13] Ibid. Pg. 375.

[14] Idem.

[15] The reference articles are: Sato, H. Policy and politics of smoking control in Japan. Social Science & Medicine. Vol. 49, 1999 (pg. 581-600), and Higuchi, S., Matsushita, S., Osaki, Y. Drinking practices, alcohol policy and prevention programmes in Japan. International Journal of Drug Policy. Vol. 17, 2006 (pg. 358-366).

Oscar Andres Gomez Salgado
First Year Master Student
Human Security and Environment Program
Professor Kimura Laboratory
Tohoku University