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Frontiers of Gender Studies
About F-GENS

In July, 2003, “Frontiers of Gender Studies (F-GENS)” was selected by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Science to receive a large scale grant establishing it as a COE (Center of Excellence) program. F-GENS is one of 25 national grantees grouped under the category of “Interdisciplinary, Combined Fields and New Disciplines”. According to the Ministry, the 21st Century COE program was established in order to increase the competitiveness of Japanese universities and to enhance their role in the international academic community. It is a great honor that Ochanomizu University was chosen as a site for a COE program.

The word “gender” or ‘jenda,’ meaning the social and cultural constructiveness of what is termed ‘men’ or ‘women,’ is still a relatively unfamiliar concept among Japanese generally speaking. This is not surprising since it takes time for people to fully appreciate a loanword. What is more surprising is the tardiness of the concept’s academic recognition. Despite the fact that the term ‘jenda’ entered the Kojien, a prestigious Japanese dictionary, as early as 1991, only in 2000 did the concept find official recognition as a category or, more precisely, a temporary subcategory of Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research. Two years later, in 2002 this category has finally been awarded a permanent status within the research field of “Combined Fields and New Disciplines.”

This accomplishment owes a great deal to past and present researchers in women’s studies, feminist criticism and gender/sexuality studies as well as activists, stateswomen, statesmen, administrators and other people who have devoted themselves to the realization of gender equality. The Basic Law on Gender Equality legislated in 1999 also made an important contribution to recent growing awareness of gender problematics.

Ochanomizu University, a national women’s university founded originally in 1875 under the name Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School, has contributed to this process in recent years most particularly through the research and educational activities of the Institute for Gender Studies (IGS) and of the Department of Gender Studies at the Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences. After IGS’s reorganization in 1996, numerous national and internationally based scholars and visiting professors have joined in promoting research and higher education in fields related to its mission.

The institutional base of gender studies in Japan, however, is as yet far from being fully developed. Out of 649 universities, there is still none that offers an undergraduate program in women’s studies or gender studies. Also, to our knowledge, of 346 universities with doctoral programs, there are only three - including our own - where students can work toward a post graduate degree. This institutional deficit is all the more acutely felt as Japanese society is currently experiencing profound structural changes, including the aging of the society, internationalization, the fragmentation of labor markets, rapid introduction of new technologies (biotechnologies, informational and communicational technologies, etc.), all of which profoundly impact the gender configuration. These changes must be studied from a gendered perspective, so that the conditions necessary to create a society where gender equality and the individual diversity are both respected can be adequately spelled out.

With 16 regular members and over 50 associates and collaborators, including scholars from abroad, F-GENS aims to commit itself to just such an endeavor. The program will be put into effect over a period of five academic years, 2003-2007. Through its activities (cf. Program outline), we seek to explore the frontiers of gender studies, promoting close exchanges and collaborations with our counterparts in Asia as well as in other parts of the world. It will be our greatest pleasure to see our program truly contribute to the international effort for the advancement of gender studies.

Tamie KAINOU, Program Leader
Tokyo, 16 October 2003
F-GENS would like to thank Professor Tani E. Barlow for her contribution during the revision of the text.
Contact Information
Frontiers of Gender Studies (F-GENS)
The 21st Century COE Program,
Ochanomizu University
2-1-1 Otsuka Bunkyo-ku
Tokyo 112-8610 Japan
Tel. +81-3-5978-5547
Fax. +81-3-5978-5548

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