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Yumi SUGAHARA (Associate Professor, Studies in Language and Society, Graduate School of Language and Culture)

Associate Professor Yumi SUGAHARA is an expert in modern Indonesian history, known for her revolutionary research involving putting the spotlit on documents written in Arabic, which to that point had been overlooked.  "I become interested in Christianity when I was in junior high school, and I finished reading the Old and New Testaments. I went into this field of research after being attracted by the historical and world viewpoints of Islam."

"Of the documents from Indonesia's colonial period, as the country was controlled by the Netherlands, there are documents in Dutch, but there are also documents written in the Java language used by the nobility of Indonesia, as well as in Arabic, used by Islamic religious groups.

Research of literature that represents each different standpoint and class of the period "spans many different texts and languages, so until now, research had stopped with the Dutch viewpoint. Through interpreting Javanese texts and employing equivocal interpretations from multiple points of view, we have brought about a three-dimensional form of the period."

She also puts effort toward field work in which she can experience the history and culture of Indonesia with her students. "We work backwards from the here and now of the region and culture to its history. The students blend in very quickly, and even when we travel back to Japan, we live in a time where SNS makes it possible for them to maintain friendships with the people they meet. For this reason, I want to foster new generation people who are not influenced by information and feelings alone, but rather, who can learn the language in order to express their own ideas and make their own decisions."

Prof. Sugahara told us her resolution for the future, saying, "I want to go back even further than the colonial period and investigate early and modern Javanese and Islamic history through texts in the native language." She mentioned that an Indonesia in the midst of modernization is losing its regional culture and historical literature at an alarming rate. Texts are regarded as so sacred that they are hoarded, and natural disasters like tsunamis add insult to injury. "We've borrowed the power of Japanese cultural heritage protection agencies to protect the regional culture and historical literature of the area, as well as performing activities for their restoration. I'd like to preserve research materials for the next generation in order to avoid segmenting Javanese culture and history," said a beaming Prof. Sugahara.


Associate Professor Sugahara is a 1992 graduate of the Indonesian Studies Department at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. She obtained her doctorate degree at the Graduate School at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies in 2002. She served as a lecturer at Tenri University in 2005, a lecturer at the Research Institute for World Languages at Osaka University in 2010, and is now an associate professor at the Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University. Her field of research is modern Indonesian history. Associate Professor Sugahara received the Japan Society for Southeast Asian Studies Award in 2014.

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