ABOUT RIDC

Message from the director

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exert unprecedented influence over our daily lives and the nature of our society. While scientific research on transmission prevention and vaccine development is being advanced to overcome this global crisis, attention is also being increasingly given to the effects of the pandemic on areas that traditionally fall under the umbrella of the humanities and social sciences, such as social relationships, values, cultural customs, and the economy.

From the emergence of humans to approximately 10,000 years before present, the small-scale and dispersed nature of groups precluded the outbreak of pandemics. Infectious diseases only started to pose a significant threat to humans following the start of agriculture and animal domestication and the subsequent increase in population, formation of cities and states, and appearance of settlements with populations in the tens to hundreds of thousands. While artificialization of the natural environment through agriculture and animal domestication, the development of technology, the creation of new worldviews and values, and other such uniquely human phenomena (=civilization) brought a new prosperity to humanity, they also brought about various problems, such as warfare, environmental degradation, discrimination, and poverty.

These various issues facing modern society were born at the intersection of humanity, society, technology, and the environment. Searching for individual causes of each respective aspect of the current situation is unlikely to provide a long-term perspective leading to a fundamental solution. Against this backdrop, the Research Institute for the Dynamics of Civilizations aims to establish a framework for interdisciplinary research both within the humanities and social sciences and with the field of natural sciences in order to elucidate the nature of human history in ways that would not otherwise be revealed through narrower approaches.

MATSUMOTO Naoko, Ph.D.

Director
Research Institute for the Dynamics of Civilizations, Okayama University

Mission

Connecting different disciplines, regions, and time periods to realize new research in the humanities and social sciences

The study of the dynamics of civilizations is a new discipline that was created in order to reconsider the various issues facing modern society within the framework of human civilizations and contribute to the construction of a sustainable society using the knowledge attained through inquiry into the past and a focus on local regions.

The three research cores of the institute

【Long-range analysis】
Fundamental Science of Civilizations Research Core

The emergence of humanity and the formation of civilizations

An archaeology without borders that reveals the history of humanity
Humans and the environment
Historical understanding of regional formation

【Middle-range analysis】
Social Dynamics Research Core

Social complexity and the creation of regional society

Family, region, and the state as systems of survival
Disasters and the resilience of regional society
Social transformation and gender

【Short-range analysis】
Regional Dynamics Research Core

The Setouchi region as a microcosm of Japanese society

The sustainability of regions, markets, and institutions
The continuity and discontinuity of lifestyles
The future of communities as ushered in through art

The institute aims to establish an interdisciplinary research hub centered primarily on the humanities and social sciences by facilitating the organic interaction between university and outside researchers through various research projects and the formation of an international network.

Working in close coordination with the Okayama University Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the institute aims to foster individuals who can produce new knowledge, give back to society, and succeed on both the local and international stages.