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Campus Now

New Year Issue (Jan.)

My study,My career

Introducing female researchers active at Waseda University.

Waseda 150 Vision defines the ideal form of our university as we move toward our 150th anniversary in 2032.
One aspect of the vision is "Waseda research which contributes to world peace and the happiness of mankind." As we work to achieve this goal, we expect new perspectives and ideas to be introduced through the activities of female researchers. In the fourth edition of this series, we spoke with Professor Keiko Hata.

The importance of having a multifaceted perspective towards all things

Keiko Hata
Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences

Encounter with a book that changed my life

When I was a student, I read the book Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty by anthropologist Oscar Lewis. As a result, I became interested in Latin America. Lewis's book conducts a matter-of-fact examination for the elements of poor people in Mexico. The book gave me an intense impression of "poverty." However, there were no teachers at my university who specialized in Latin American research. Therefore, I entered graduate school at a different university in order to conduct research on agricultural reform and farmers' movements in Mexico.

After completing the Master's Program, I joined the Latin America Special Project of Tsukuba University as an associate researcher, conducting research on the political history of Mexico (from the late 19th century until 1930s). I also had the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico for a year through a government scholarship. My time abroad was extremely meaningful. However, the special project ended at the same time that I returned to Japan. At that time, I heard that the Instituto Iberoamericano at Sophia University was searching for a research associate and I was able to obtain the position. Through this natural progression, although my path was different from normal, I embarked on a career as a researcher.

At that time, Latin American research was still a developing academic field. It was a plus that the 1982 debt crisis increased Japan's interest in the Latin American region. You could say that it was relatively easy for me to become a researcher. Compared to law, economics and other fields with already developed systems, there were many female researchers in the minor field of Latin American research. I never experienced much difficulty.

Fieldwork which defined my attitude as a researcher

Photograph with children at an elementary school in a Mexican village visited to conduct a survey (August 2012)

The appeal of Mexico is its slightly defiant stance. Geographically speaking, Mexico is easily influenced by the neighboring country of America. However, Mexico has pushed aside such influence to conduct agricultural reform and maintain unique diplomacy. Furthermore, Mexicans possess the spiritual richness to show compassion to others even amongst poverty. Local feeling is extremely important to regional research, so I have always tried to visit Mexico at least once a year. Recently, I felt warm-heartedness of locals when I went to conduct a lifestyle survey for indigenous peoples in Mexico. A 26-year old woman who I interviewed apologized for "not being able to offer me any hospitality even though I had come from far off Japan." A few days later, the woman brought me traditional cooking made from corn. Moreover, she brought her four children with her on a 4-kilometer walk along a mountain road. Since I had already left that region, I heard the story from an acquaintance afterwards. I was touched by the warm-hearted compassion and pride shown by the woman. At the same time, I vowed to thoroughly define my own attitude towards my research.

A multifaceted perspective towards education, research and university management

Regional research emphasizes a local perspective and multifaceted approach which spans academic fields. Based on Mexican political history, I have focused on research themes which include agricultural reform, farmers' movements, women's movements, citizen social organizations and social policy. All of themes incorporate the element of poverty. Agricultural reform is a policy for correcting poverty. Farmers' movements take place because poverty and inequality exist. In other words, I have researched the background of poverty in Mexico through a variety of themes which originate from the Culture of Poverty book which had impressed me when I was a student.

Professor Hata's collection of traditional Mexican fabrics and crafts. The different shapes and use of color are appealing.

Even in the case of events in distant regions, I emphasize to students the importance of using a composite perspective to relate those events to one's own problems. In my seminars, I often discuss how I have felt onsite in Mexico, as well as a variety of information, opinions and interpretations from onsite. Additionally, I delve into the awareness of each student by discussing why focus is placed on such themes. I strongly feel that students understand this aspect of my teaching. During research presentations in my seminar, 4th-year students advise younger students "to incorporate local opinions" and "to consider whether the same issues exist in Japan." Some students even visit Mexico from the "desire to get a first-hand look." It brings me great joy to see students take such action. Conversely, students are interested in Latin American music, sports and business, areas in which I lack expertise. My own perspective has been expanded by having students teach me the appeal of such areas.

Recently, I was appointed as Senior Dean at the Faculty of Social Sciences. I am involved in part of university management in addition to education and research. Through this experience, I feel that a multifaceted perspective is important in all things, not just education and research. For example, by introducing a woman's perspective into debate being conducted by men only, a different conclusion will often be reached. There is no need to be especially conscious of women, but it is best to incorporate multiple perspectives in a variety of decisions. Recently, there are an increasing number of female researchers involved in education and research activities while raising children at the same time. Of course, we must support such a work-life balance and develop an environment in which young researchers can perform. This will create yet another option for students in the future.

Keiko Hata
Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences

Graduate from the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Tsuda College. Completed the Master's Program at the Graduate School of Foreign Studies, Sophia University. Served as a research associate at Sophia University and as an assistant professor at Chubu University. Appointed as an assistant professor at the School of Social Sciences, Waseda University in 1993 and then as a professor in 1995. Area of expertise is Latin American regional research focusing on Mexico. Major co-edited/co-written works include International Relations of Latin America [Ratenamerika no Kokusaikankei] (Shinhyoron), Language and Culture of the Latin American World [R](Seibundoh) and Latin America & Oceania (World Politics Series #6) (Minerva Shobo).