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Campus Now

Early Spring Issue (Apr. 2013)

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 fifth edition of this series, we spoke with Professor Aiko Watanabe.

I want to balance research with child-raising and break into a new field of research

Professor Aiko Watanabe
Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Urge to learn awakened before graduation

When thinking of literature, many people imagine emotional and aesthetic aspects. I am one of those people. Originally, I had wanted to become a doctor. However, in an ironic twist of fate, I failed the English section of the entrance examination. As a result, I began studying at the Department of English Language and Literature, which was unfamiliar to me. A little before graduation, I told my professor that the theme of my graduate thesis would be about “the Beatles,” the only aspect of England which interested me at the time. “If you want to enter graduate school, it would be best to make literature your theme,” recommended the professor. At that time, I had already gained an employment offer and wasn’t even considering graduate school, but I reluctantly changed my theme. I selected George Orwell, famous author of the allegorical novel “Animal Farm” which uses analogies related to WWII and the former Soviet Union. Unexpectedly, writing this thesis opened my eyes to the appeal of unraveling the author’s intentions which are hidden within literary works. I felt the desire to study more and I followed my professor’s suggestion of embarking on a life of research.

In graduate school, I encountered literary theory which pursues the “meaning of literature” and the “relationship between the main character, the text and society.” In order to conduct authentic research, I decided to study abroad at England’s University of Warwick, where research was more advanced than in Japan. At the University of Warwick, my learning in multidisciplinary cultural studies caused my fields of research to expand even further. Ultimately, I settled on regional research of modern England. Regional research requires multifaceted knowledge, an aspect which fits my broad interests.

It is a waste for interests to lie undiscovered

Seminar camp with family participation

Many students who enter my seminar have interest in UK rock and other British youth culture. I believe that the first step is to widen the scope of interest in such students. After all, as I found out for myself, it is a waste for time at university to pass without discovering your interests. Therefore, in my seminar for 3rd-year students, I have students form into small groups dealing with themes such as history, literature, art, architecture, sports and music. In these groups, I have students conduct research and presentation on various aspects of England and the British Commonwealth of Nations. Work is graded by other students and affects final marks, so students work passionately together to investigate and find new facets of their topics. Through research and presentation, students acquire vast amount of knowledge and see the appeal of England which they didn’t notice before. Also, presentation skills will be useful when working at a company in the future. I want students to acquire the ability to consider how they are being viewed by others and what they must do to persuade others through logical progression.

One child is equal to ten theses

My current research focuses on the history of cultural diplomacy in 20th-century England. This is a relatively new research field which closes the gap between the two fields of culture and diplomacy. Image strategy using culture promotes smooth relationships between countries and fulfills an important role as a tool for both economic prosperity and peace. In particular, since the mid-1990s, England has promoted “Cool Britannia” and has actively used the power of culture as a diplomatic tool. However, the seeds of this movement can actually be traced back to the period between WWI and WWII. In 2011, while conducting foreign research at Cambridge University during my sabbatical*, I frequented the National Archives in London and found enormous amounts of historical materials related to England’s cultural diplomacy. Another valuable experience was learning about England’s traditional social culture through friendships with researchers involved in other fields at Cambridge University.

Attending a party at Cambridge University

However, since I wear the two hats of researcher and mother, I sometimes feel frustrated when my research doesn’t proceed according to my expectations. I remember a female researcher who raised a child telling me a long time ago that “one child is equal to ten theses.” Since I was single at the time, I didn’t truly understand what she meant. However, now that I am struggling to raise two preschool children and I can’t find enough time to focus on my research, I know only too well what she meant. Of course, I am not complaining about my situation. Now is a difficult and critical stage of my life, but the tolerance and broad perspective which I have gained through child-raising will undoubtedly have a positive impact on my future research activities.

*Sabbatical: A system for leave from work to conduct research. In order to encourage research activities, this system allows faculty to take approximately 1 year of leave every few years in order to conduct foreign research, etc.

Professor Aiko Watanabe
Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences

In 1996, completed the Master’s Program in English literature at England’s University of Warwick Graduate School. In 1997, completed the Master’s Program in English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick Graduate School. In 2002, completed the Doctoral Program at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Appointed as Full-Time Instructor at the Waseda University School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I in 2004 and as Associate Professor at the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2007. Assumed her current position from 2012.