The Center for Islamic Area Studies (KIAS) was established in 2006 as an attached institution of the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS), Kyoto University.

From its establishment until 2011, KIAS conducted two NIHU (National Institute for the Humanities) projects under the title, "Islamic Area Studies." In 2016, "Modern Middle East"(MME), another NIHU project with a six-year term, was launched.

In the ASAFAS, the umbrella organization for the KIAS, the Division of Global Studies was established as a new sction in 2004. The Course of Islamic World Studies, which is organically connected to the MME project, was established within this division. Being organically coordinated with the ASAFAS in general and this division in particular, the KIAS — in addition to its research activities — has been involved in the education and training of young researchers.

One of the major aims of the KIAS is the training of young researchers, which has been performed in cooperation with the ASAFAS. Besides training, the center offers research opportunities to these young people.

In the cadre of the KIAS — the largest research center dedicated to Islamic Studies in the western part of Japan —, there are three professors, and a visiting professor.

In addition to its own programs, the KIAS has been promoting research and educational activities with the cooperation of other sister organizations at Kyoto University, such as the Center for South Asian Studies (another NIHU area studies project-awarded research center), the Hadhari Center for Islamic Civilizational Studies (a joint project with the National University of Malaysia), and the Kenan Rifai Center for Sufi Studies — a research organization that was founded in 2016 in cooperation with the Institute for Sufi Studies at Üsküdar University in Turkey and the Kerim Foundation in Istanbul.

These projects and activities of KIAS would not be possible without your support. On behalf of the center, I would like to express my deep appreciation to all who have supported us.

To survive in the increasingly globalized world, the field of area studies as a scientific realm and research genre and MME as a network-based project are expected to become more active. On the occasion of launching the MME project, I hope for your continued support.

Prof. Dr. TONAGA Yasushi
Director of the Center

1. Main Theme

The main theme of MME is "Toward a Pluralistic and Multi-Valued Society: People and Cultures of the Middle East in the Age of Global Change."

This project examines how individuals in the Middle East obtain information, accumulate knowledge, and utilize what they have acquired as resources in an age of global transformations of the environment, society, and media. We study how individuals relate to the world, how social spaces are created, and the manners in which individuals relate to them — inclusively or exclusively — based on their diverse values.

More precisely, the project is aimed at analyzing the diverse ways of worldbuilding by concentrating on the contemporary dynamics in which the affective mobilizations are resourced and reused to emerge in the socialization of individuals.

Four different groups of issues that connect the local spheres inhabited by individuals and the globalized society have been identified as follows:

(1) Cultural resources (issues related to cultural heritage, personal worldviews, religion, and materiality)
(2) Natural resources (issues related to ecosystems and living spaces, the environment, human resources, and environmental governance)
(3) Intellectual resources (issues related to the information environment and social sphere, traditional knowledge, and education)
(4) Human resources (issues related to the aging society, the disabled, women/children/youth, economically weak people, minorities, and refugees)

Another aim of the project is the development of a new area studies research methodology for imagining a world by revisiting the social realities that are produced mutually in the processes of resocialization and the interaction of individuals through exclusion or inclusion of diverse value systems. Individuals will be asked how they gather information utilizing global dynamics that are related to the natural and social environment and language and media environment, from the perspective of storing pieces of information as knowledge (retaining them as resources).

2. Partner Research Institutions

Apart from the KIAS ("Kyoto Center" in this project), the following four research institutions are involved in this project:

(1) Center for Modern Middle East Studies, National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku center)
For the sub-theme and research activities of the Minpaku center, refer to the official site of the institution.

(2) Middle East and Islamic Studies, Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS Center)
For the sub-theme and research activities of the TUFS Center, refer to the official site of the institution.

(3) Center for Islamic Studies, Sophia University (Jochi Center)
For the sub-theme and research activities of the Jochi Center, refer to the official site of the institution.

(4) Graduate School of International Resource Sciences, Akita University (Akita Center)
For the sub-theme and research activities of the Akita Center, refer to the official site of the institution.

3. Network Building and Management

The four aforementioned research centers, and the Kyoto Center, form a research network and cooperate with each other. Each center is part of the Research Promotion Committee (RPC), which meets twice per fiscal year to discuss management of the project (e.g., division of roles, sustainability of the network, and joint events). The committee was formed and runs under the supervision of the Promotion Center located in the NIHU headquarters.

The Minpaku center, as the Central Hub and nexus of the network, holds and manages the RPC. The center organizes joint activities in cooperation with the other four centers. The TUFS Center, as the deputy office for the network, helps the headquarters office with activities.

4. KIAS Research Theme and Activities

Theme: "The Formation and Problems of the Mainstream-Moderate in Islam: Modernization of Intellectual Resources and Multidimensional Movements"
Representative of the Kyoto Center: Professor Yasushi Tonaga (Director, Center for Islamic Area Studies, Kyoto University)

【Outline of the Research Theme】
Stabilization of the Islamic world through international cooperation and support is a crucial issue. However, unnecessary friction with the secular groups, slow progress in the democratization process, and excessive intervention by the international society prevent the formation of mainstream moderate groups and help radical extreme groups. An objective of the Kyoto Center is to analyze the intellectual heritage of mainstream moderate Muslim groups from the perspective of modernization of intellectual resourcing and describe diversity from the resourcing of religious thought and economic knowledge.

【Goals of the Project】
The aim of the project is to build an epistemological framework for designing special diplomatic strategies and policies regarding the contemporary issuers such as extremism and radicalism. Accordingly, an analysis of the ulama and Sufis — guardians and transmitters of traditional Islamic knowledge from the perspective of classical thought and education — was performed. Also analyzed were media in the contemporary Islamic world from the perspective of promoting an informative environment and communication. The public sphere, mainstream moderate Muslim groups, and the Islamic economy, from the perspective of Islamic mutual aid, were examined as well.

5. Fostering International Cooperation and Building International Networks

Each center builds an international academic network by cooperating with universities and research institutions outside Japan in joint research studies and meetings and facilitating exchanges and cooperative efforts with researchers abroad.

Members of the network share facilities with each other. The TUFS Center provides the Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Beirut, and the Jochi Center has its Cairo Research Center as a hub for fieldwork research, international workshops, and young researchers who wish to conduct fieldwork for research studies. The Akita Center contributes to broadening the network to areas that research cooperations have not been developed enough by sharing its research center at Red Sea University (Sudan).

6. Enhancement of University Education

The centers enhance the educational function of the universities by building networks between them and NIHU, as well as sharing information among institutions in the network. Additionally, the centers — in order to strengthen their research activities — can utilize the resources of NIHU, such as documents, facilities, and human capital. Moreover, NIHU supports education at universities where the centers are located by enabling students and young researchers affiliated with them to access its facilities and resources. As some precise examples of the cooperation among the centers and NIHU, NIHU supports an opening series of lectures for education regarding the Modern Middle East and facilitates cooperation between the departments and faculties of the universities where the centers are located in order to exchange credits and organize intensive summer courses. The project welcomes academic activities between universities and high schools, such as the Super Global High School Program.

7. Disseminating Research Achievements to the International Society

Results of research studies will be announced through international research meetings, such as workshops, symposiums, and forums. The venues are not limited to Japan. If needed, facilities of MOU organizations abroad could be utilized.

Another way of disseminating research findings is this web-site. Information about research events and reports of activities are shared and announced through homepages on the servers of the Minpaku center. For evaluations of content and the effectiveness of online disseminating activities, a special committee will be formed. The committee will check the content of homepages and decide to publish certain content as necessary. As for the language of the publications, English and French are preferred. However, Arabic along with other Middle Eastern languages can be utilized for the purpose of disseminating findings to the Middle East.

To connect members of the centers and researchers of the MOU institutions in order to share information and engage in discussions online, SNSs are used.

8. Training Researchers

Getting young researchers involved in the project is a goal.
The centers and project team cooperate with each other to support young researchers as part of their joint research activities and international research meetings.

Cooperating with educators in universities is also an aim.
The centers and the network are developing educational programs from research findings to be used for curricula in their respective universities.