Professor Wendy Pearlman’s Visit to Ritsumeikan University and the Related Events

Fukiko Ikehata
Associate Professor, Kinugasa Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University

Professor Wendy Pearlman from Northwestern University in the United States visited Ritsumeikan University in June 2022. This is the report about her visit and the Asia-Japan Institution's collaborations with her.

She is a professor in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University, an internationally renowned political scientist. Her books are also well received, based on her in-depth field and interview research of social movements in Palestine, and more recently of Syrian Refugees.

While Professor Pearlman's visit to Japan has been unfortunately delayed due to the previous stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was finally achieved as part of a collaboration between Northwestern University and Ritsumeikan University. She was invited by the Asia-Japan Research Institute (AJI) at Ritsumeikan University, hosted by Professor Kota Suechika, a Professor at the College of International Relations and Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. As a member of his team, I was in charge of managing her visit and the events related to her visit. I was delighted with this task as I share the research area, Sham, or historical (geographical) Syria, with her. During her stay in Kyoto, I accompanied her nearly every day, and I had wonderful opportunities to listen to a lot of valuable and exciting stories from her personally.

In her visit to Kyoto, Professor Pearlman first visited the Kinugasa Campus of Ritsumeikan University and had a meeting with Professor Yasushi Kosugi (Director of the AJI). Besides discussing her activities in Kyoto, they had good discussions since Professor Kosugi is a well-known specialist in Middle East politics.

Professor Pearlman (left) and Professor Kosugi (right) having a discussion

Professor Pearlman then visited the Suzaku Campus of Ritsumeikan University and met Professor Akio Tokuda (Vice-president of Ritsumeikan University). In this meeting, various discussions between them were conducted, ranging from her current specialty of Syrian refugees to an interesting discussion on immigration, refugees, and the diaspora in Asia. After such academic discussion, they also reconfirmed that Northwestern University and Ritsumeikan University will actively keep promoting exchange programs in the future.

Professor Pearlman meeting with Professor Tokuda (right)

Additionally, Professor Pearlman had many interactions with other professors in various specialties.

At the Ibaraki Campus of Ritsumeikan University in Osaka, she met with Professor Hiroyuki Mori, Professor Tomohiko Yoshida, and Assistant Professor Fitrio Ashardiono, all of whom are from the College of Policy Science. They talked about various topics including international academic collaborations and academic activities with Northwestern University, especially through Meridian 180, a Global Multilingual Think-tank Network.

At the Kinugasa Campus, Professor Pearlman visited the offices of professors in the College of International Relations. During each of her visits, they could have an active exchange of opinions about their research topics despite time limitations.

In the Biwako Kusatsu Campus of Ritsumeikan University, Professor Pearlman visited the offices of professors in the various fields of natural sciences. They showed her their scientific activities as well as their contributions to local communities in their labs, so she was able to have a clear vision of what kind of collaborations can be sought between the two universities.

Professor Pearlman in her visit to the Ibaraki Campus.

The AJI launched two events during her visit. The first one was the Book Launch, which was held on June 9, for Professor Pearlman's book, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria, translated and published in Japanese in 2019 by Iwanami Shoten Publishers. [Click here for the report for this Book Launch]. This book is based on her consistent interviews with Syrian refugees and published in a quite unique style, which was received extremely well by the readership. During this Book Launch, attendees asked a lot of questions about her distinctive methodologies of interviews. Interactions with the author made this Book Launch really valuable and exciting. I acted as the moderator in this Book Launch and it was a significant experience for me.

The Book Launch was held in a hybrid way.

The second event was the international symposium, "Syrian Refugees in Their Calamities, Survival, and Future Lives: A Japan Roundtable" held on June 12 [Click here for the report for this Symposium]. Professor Pearlman gave her keynote speech, and five younger researchers made their research presentations, including myself. Professor Pearlman gave her detailed and sincere feedback to each of the presenters, which certainly encouraged us for further developments of our research in the future. We also had impressive lineups of Japanese Middle Eastern specialists as discussants, including Dr. Ryuta Oba (Dokkyo Medical University), Professor Takuro Kikkawa (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University), Dr. Aiko Nishikida (Keio University), and Dr. Masaki Mizobuchi (Hiroshima University). Their comments and questions were highly appreciated.

In addition to academic events, we helped Professor Pearlman with her sightseeing excursions in Kyoto. She seemed to have enjoyed them greatly since this was her first visit to Japan. We visited the Sanjusangendo, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Nanzenji Temple, and Heian-Jingu Shrine. During the sightseeing and visits, we were also engaged in talks and we learned a lot about the academic and personal experiences of Professor Pearlman in the Middle East. It was a quite precious and exciting time for her accompaniers and we could talk freely with her about a wide range of topics, such as how she conducts her research, what and how she teaches her students, the significance of getting hold of the qualitative research on politics when quantitative and statistical methodologies are increasingly becoming mainstream, and how younger researchers can make their academic careers. I also had a lot of pleasure relating my works and research interests to this fantastic scholar privately. Her visit to our university unexpectedly provided me with an opportunity I could never dream of.

Professor Pearlman (center), Dr. Midori Kirihara (right), and Dr. Aoi Mochizuki (left) during an excursion in Kyoto

The author of this report (Ikehata) with Professor Pearlman