Quarterly TOP gj

Series: Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (2)

 
 

Prof. Timur Dadabaev hails from Uzbekistan, where he graduated from The University of World Economy and Diplomacy. In 1995, he came to Japan under a Japanese government scholarship to pursue his postgraduate studies in international relations. In 2001, he earned his PhD from Ritsumeikan University. Then from 2002-04, he conducted research as a JSPS postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Masatake Matsubara, National Museum of Ethnology, on "The Role of 'Inter-ethnic Dialogue' in Resolving Inter-ethnic Conflicts in Central Asia: Balancing Theory and Practice." In April of this year, he became an associate professor at The Institute of Oriental Culture, The University of Tokyo.

What originally led you to pursue research in Japan?

   In the first half of the 1990s, Uzbekistan society was going through radical changes. I was interested to learn how Japan maintained its traditional customs and values amidst a rapid process of modernization. While living in Japan, I became involved in the local neighborhood association and other traditional organizations, where I learned about how Japanese interact and show consideration for one another. At the same time, I felt there were limitations to the effectiveness of conventional diplomacy in solving national and inter-ethnic conflicts. The Japanese attitude and approach to issues of conflict and social harmony offered me a new angle in my research which sought ways to pacify and modernize Central Asian societies.

So that's the reason you decided to do postdoctoral research in Japan under a JSPS fellowship?

Yes. To elaborate, I believed the standard of the Japanese academic community and level of Central Asian studies within it to be high; from personal experience, even higher than some possible venues in the West. My host, Prof. Matsubara, had earned international acclaim for his work on Turkish society. In doing my own research, I had read his papers and sought his advice on various issues. This spawned the idea of our launching a new research project in an area of common interest: exploring traditional methods of inter-ethnic dialogue in Central Asia. Receiving the JSPS postdoctoral fellowship, I was able to pursue this joint project with Prof. Matsubara.

In the future, I hope to be able to continue contributing to the development of Central Asian studies by disseminating knowledge on Central Asia within Japan and by initiating collaborative research projects between researchers from Central Asia, Japan and other countries. My joint research project with Prof. Matsubara marked the start of my path in this direction. Casting theoretical reflections on my empirical findings, I have employed the Japanese research approach in doing extensive fieldwork in Central Asia. The ultimate objective of my research is to collect and carefully register the voices of people from Central Asia and deliver them to the international community of scholars and interested individuals.

Prof. Timur Dadabaev

What achievements did you gain during and as a result of your tenure as a JSPS postdoctoral fellow?

There were many; possibly the most significant was my successfully applying for a JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Publication of Scientific Research Results. It allowed me to publish my first book in English, titled Towards Post-Soviet Regional Central Asian Integration: A Scheme for Transitional States. This was a big step in my career as it helped to get my writings known and opened new frontiers for future research.

Do you have any advice for young researchers who may be thinking about doing research in Japan?

My five key words for them would be (1) personal planning, (2) Japanese language skills, (3) relationship with host researcher, (4) teamwork (and communication), and (5) networking. In addition, perhaps more than in any other society, research and life in Japan requires cultural flexibility and understanding of what others do and why. Harmonizing oneself is the greatest requisite for successful relations in the working and living place.

With regard to the workplace, if newly arrived researchers from overseas bring with them an individualist style of doing research, they may become critical of the Japanese system of teamwork. However, I personally found the guidance and views I received from my Japanese teammates to be very constructive and valuable. From early on, as a member of the team I was expected to contribute my views and participate in research that was not directly related to my own. I found this to yield new directions in my own thinking. I would advise others, therefore, to understand how the Japanese go about achieving a research plan and to have a positive attitude about participating in the research of other members on the team.

You are skillful in Japanese. How might other researchers go about developing such Japanese language skills?

When I first came to Japan, I couldn't understand Japanese at all. During my first half year, I concentrated on studying Japanese. It took four years before I was able to write papers and deliver presentations in the language. Over the two-year period of the JSPS postdoctoral fellowship, it may be difficult for fellows to learn enough Japanese to communicate freely. Nevertheless, there is still value in working hard at it. Being able to communicate is very important both in living in Japan and working with the members of one's research team. To do this, one's Japanese does not have to be perfect. At various levels of proficiency, researchers can use their Japanese to create smooth human relations and to enrich their experience while in Japan.