世界で活躍するグローバル・リーダーを bimonthly (隔月ごと）にYGCでインタビューしていきます。全て英語でインタビューが記載されていますので、是非最後まで頑張って読んでいきましょう！
1996年に法政大学国際交流センター、フェローシップのプログラムで来日。同大学で第一教養部専任講師、法学部教授を経て、2008 年に現職であり、立ち上げから関わったグローバル教養学部、Global Interdisciplinary Studies （GIS）の教授に就任されました。主な研究に、「“Lesbians” in East Asia: Diversity, identities, and resistance.」（2006年）、「Legal recognition of same-sex partnership: A comparative study of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.」、「Global norms, state regulations, and local activism: Marriage equality and same-sex partnership, sexual orientation, and gender identity rights in Japan and Hong Kong」（2020年）などがあります。
⏤You came to Japan in 1996? What made you decide to come to Japan?
D.K.:I came in 1994, for both personal and academic reasons. One personal reason was my parents, because of the anticipated 1997 change-over. They went to the United States for a while, and they stayed with my sister in the Chicago area. I had this idea that when I finished my dissertation I would find a job and then stay with my parents. But then they ended up going back to Hong Kong! Apparently, they found it okay to go back. Also, at that age, it must have been difficult to adjust to a new place without friends around. After they left, I didn’t have a strong reason to stay in the U.S.. There were also signs that the US government would tighten the work visas for graduating foreign students . Then my partner got a full-time job here! So, those were the personal reasons.
Why not Hong Kong? The reason’s mostly academic because, at that time, I thought I knew everybody who was in sociology in Hong Kong and I wanted more space to grow. I didn’t want to go back as Diana the student again. And Japan is close enough to Hong Kong that I felt I could go back right away any time.
Another reason was that Hong Kong, at that time, wasn’t a “legitimate” site for research, so to speak. Now we appreciate the uniqueness of Hong Kong, and I think in the past 5 to 10 years, local scholars developed the field of Hong Kong sociology. Some of my friends doing fascinating works were involved in that. But in my time, it wasn’t like that. Well, it wasn’t a country, unlike China, and it was a colony at a time when there weren’t many colonies left in the world. The idea was that research findings couldn’t be generalized.
The other reason was that in my Ph.D. research I did comparative quantitative analysis, using data from as large number of countries as I could. Which also means that I didn’t know much about any one country. That’s one of the reasons I thought I would like to explore Japan. At that time, my interest was in women’s studies and how women’s studies were developed as a body of knowledge. Also, I thought most people would speak English in Japan!
⏤But you also speak very good Japanese! When did you study Japanese?
D.K.: I studied on my own, through immersion! At the first faculty meeting, when I became a full-time faculty in 1999, I couldn’t understand 80% of what was said! But I could read, right? So I relied on a trusted colleague and asked her for her notes. That’s how I picked up the language. I still study and still carry around Japanese language books. When I have breaks, I work on my Japanese.
⏤Do you often go back to Hong Kong?
D.K.: Yes, I have family and also research connections in Hong Kong. We’re doing comparative studies in Hong Kong as well. The last time I thought I would go back was when the protest was at its peak, and I had to cancel my flight. My friends and family were scared for me and told me, “Diana, you wear black all the time. That’s the protestors’ color! You might be mistaken as one and be arrested!” Watching the news, yes, it was scary. But I ended up canceling the trip because I was afraid that I couldn’t come back here in time for my work as there was an occupation of the airport at that time. It’s more of a practical reason and not because I didn’t support the cause. That was that. Then came COVID-19, so I ended up not being able to go back for a while.
⏤But you do want to visit?
D.K.: I do, definitely! The place has changed a whole lot though.
⏤I can only imagine! So, you’re currently a professor of Global Interdisciplinary Studies (GIS), which you were involved [with] since the initiation of the program? Did you help launch the program? I think it’s unique, or interesting that few programs in Japan offer an all-English Liberal Arts program. I think they should offer it in other universities as well. Hopefully, it will become a catalyst to other universities. Can you please explain the characteristics of GIS?
D.K.: Like what you said, that it’s an all-English Liberal Arts curriculum, that’s one of the characteristics that defines the GIS curriculum, and the other part is the learning environment. We offer courses in a wide range of areas with around 200 courses and 30 disciplines. We’ve organized them into the social sciences, the humanities, and the business sciences. We went through some changes in the credit requirements and organization of the courses through the years because we really want to guide students to take a range of courses and benefit from a Liberal Arts curriculum, to really develop an interdisciplinary perspective.
Another characteristic is that it’s not that we just focus on breadth, but we also focus on depth. The courses are organized systematically in the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. If you’re in a Liberal Arts curriculum, as you go further up, you’re going to focus more on whatever interests you. It could be sociology, it could be anything. At the same time, at the same advanced level, you can also take courses that are in another discipline. I have students in my classes who are in business and also some of my seminar students went on to finance after graduating, but there are also those who are in neighboring disciplines, like media studies. Some are in literature. They take advanced courses in literature but they are also in my (sociology) seminar on intersectionality. This dual focus on breadth and depth is one of the key characteristics of and the value of a Liberal Arts curriculum.
The learning environment is probably what distinguishes us from our rival programs. We have small classes, interactive classrooms, active learning, and diversity in the classroom. If you look at us just on paper, you may think, “Oh, GIS doesn’t have a large number of students from foreign countries,” and this is true if you just look at their visa status. Most of them indeed are of Japanese nationality, but many actually come from multicultural backgrounds. These students come into GIS and feel, “Oh, we found our home!” Many told me that they felt isolated throughout their primary and secondary education. Some research has indeed shown that multicultural or multiracial children are not integrated or accepted fully in this society. Students have also told me that they were seen as foreigners in school. But in GIS, we’ve got the right kind of cultural mix, so to speak. Diversity is something that has a direct impact on the way they learn. I started teaching here in 1996 and full-time from 1999 and I could see the change in the classroom and the change in discussions when I had students from diverse backgrounds. Instead of me offering alternative perspectives, the students are the ones bringing in alternative perspectives in the classroom. That really enriches everyone’s learning experience. So I would say that diversity in the classroom is a very distinctive characteristic of GIS. Students and faculty come with different experiences and share the experiences in the classroom. The majority of the faculty, over 50%, have foreign nationalities.
⏤So it seems like you’ve found your home as well?
D.K.: Yes! But unfortunately, I’m not working with my GIS colleagues very much these days.
YGC Instructor: I noticed that a theme in both your research and the Liberal Arts and the GIS mission seems to be social responsibility or activism. Do you have any advice for students who are preparing to go to college or university who have never had to think about social responsibility or activism before? How can they start?
D.K.: How can they start? I think they can start by thinking about the consequences of their actions. This one time, I went to a talk about multinational corporations. At the end of the talk, the professor asked the audience to check the labels on each other’s shirts and then to say where they came from and to really ask why. Why are so many clothes made in Haiti, for example? To start thinking about the consequences of buying something. One of the students in my seminar is doing research on fast fashion. She explores the consumer’s responsibility in the exploitation of the workers. Think about the food that we eat, the devices we use. Or, think about the consequences in the comments that you make, about gender, about race.You can start from anything around you. Self-awareness really is the key to beginning the process of taking social responsibility or activism.
⏤So you’ve obviously dealt with a lot of education in Japan. I’m hoping that you know both the strengths and the weaknesses, can you tell us what they are respectively? And as with the latter, what we should do to overcome the weaknesses in Japanese education?
D.K.: I can only comment on higher education. Despite all the criticisms of Japanese examinations, I don’t think examination is completely a bad thing. In fact, I think examinations are necessary. The key lies in how you approach studying for them. For A-Levels, we studied a lot, but it was a lot of fun learning new things, and studying, especially with friends helping each other. Whatever you study, you learn. Knowledge never betrays you because you always have it and you can always use it. Discipline is also something you acquire through studying. That is also important and again something that you can use for life.
In terms of higher education in Japan, I think students are asked to choose their majors too early. I thought I would go into business and ended up in sociology! HKU allowed me to do that. Not all students know what fields are out there. I didn’t know about sociology until my first sociology class! At times I interview applicants to our department, and they tell me what areas they want to specialize in. Then they come in here, and they tell me, “I didn’t know about this field!” They’re lucky in our department because it’s Liberal Arts, but most departments focus on one discipline. You want students to know about their choices before they decide on one. We’ve started talking about late specializations, more flexibility for transferring departments, and so on. And then, there is diversity, especially diversity in the classroom. I remember one case of the Stanford Law School in its policy of positively recruiting students from diverse backgrounds. The faculty defended the policy by making a very strong argument for diversity in the classroom and how it’s going to be beneficial for everybody studying law. That’s affirmative action and it’s controversial, but there are benefits for everyone.
⏤Are you talking mostly about gender issues here?
D.K.: Gender, race, class, and so on. By having actual diversity in the classroom, you can then expand the students’ imagination, and broaden their intercultural and other experiences. Short of actual diversity in the classroom, the curriculum becomes critical. What courses we teach and what we require them to take. For example, there are kyoyou kamoku (教養科目) courses here. But, we may need to rethink what kyoyo kamuku is. I remember when I was at Stanford, students were required to take at least one unit of Race and Ethnic Studies and one unit of Gender / Feminist Studies. These were considered important for students to broaden their views, expand their experiences, and yes, make the world a better place. I was also hired as a TA in Feminist Studies to “internationalize” their curriculum at that time. I think that introducing diversity in the curriculum can compensate for the lack of actual diversity in the classrooms, and allow students to have more global, diverse experiences.
⏤ I think we need to look at things in a different way. We as a country have the resources! Along the lines of education, you’ve experienced education in Hong Kong, the United States, and Japan. I’m pretty sure that there are similarities and differences among them. What are the common things among the three countries when it comes to higher education in particular?
D.K.: I think all three places value education!
⏤I guess it might be easier to talk about the differences?
D.K.: HKU followed the British system, so naturally it’s similar to universities in the U.K. I think HKU and Stanford emphasized both input and output. It’s built into the curriculum. In Hong Kong, I remember tutorials were compulsory. The policy was that students needed to attend 80% of the tutorials to even be considered for credit, but that you may skip the lectures. Of course, students didn’t intentionally skip the lectures because without them, they wouldn’t know what to do or say in the tutorials! In the U.S., it’s the same. In both systems, you learn facts, concepts and theories in the lecture and then you use them in discussions to deepen your understanding. Courses meet a few times a week. In Japan, we only meet once a week for every course. At GIS, for example, we try to build in active learning through discussions and presentations, but we have to do everything in a 100-minute session once a week. My students are taking ten courses at a time. It’s very challenging to engage deeply with all 10 courses, even if they were in the same field! In the States, for example, the lower-division classes are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and the upper-division classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays with longer periods. This way, you not only have an extra time for a discussion period and you also have a few times to explore a topic in lectures. I think that’s more effective in terms of learning, allowing students to really immerse in a course.
⏤What do you love about teaching, especially in your field?
D.K.: I think the part that I said earlier, the “Ah-ha!” moment is what I love. I derive a lot of satisfaction too from helping students develop their critical thinking. I take care not to impose my views—I mean I have very strong views on a lot of things, but I am committed to giving students space to think and make up their own mind. When they think, when they question each other, when they question me – these are the best moments of teaching. This is especially so in sociology because questioning common sense is really the core of our discipline. I think that’s probably what I enjoy the most.
In terms of research, I did quantitative analysis for my PhD dissertation but more recently, I do interviews or content analysis of documents. The findings from qualitative research are usually kind of “messy” if you will. For an hour of interview, you have a transcript that runs a good number of pages, and from 20, 30 interviews, you get quite many pages of transcripts! You need to identify the themes and organize the findings to do the analysis. That’s the same for content analysis of documents. Being able to make sense of the “mess” – the complexity, the contradictions, the details—that’s the satisfaction! To be able to find a concept, a framework that you find satisfactory to interpret the findings—that’s what I find most satisfying.
⏤So it’s okay that there is a mess? It is always there?
D.K.: Yes, it’s a natural thing. Because society is messy and complex!
⏤So you go out in public to do this research?
D.K.: I conduct content analysis of documents and platforms related to the arguments for same-sex marriage. I also conduct interviews. I have conducted interviews with mothers and daughters, as well as with same-sex couples. Interviews are amazing! I’m always grateful for interview participants who share with me the details of their lives and their views.
⏤ …and focus groups?
D.K.: I’ve done both. The individual interviews can be more intense.
⏤What do you hope the younger generation will be conscious of when putting themselves out there? What do you think they should be focusing on?
D.K.: I’ve already said that earlier. I want them to be aware of the consequences of their decisions and their actions. That whatever decisions they make, they have an impact on others. That’s probably a key thing that I want them to know. And another thing (which probably overlaps with your last questions…) is that we need to be aware of our parochialism, but at the same time, not be afraid of taking a stance. At times, people say, “Oh, it’s nice to have different perspectives,” and you listen to all these different perspectives and ideas. But what do you do with them?. In surveys of Japanese respondents, there’s frequently a high percentage of people who fall into the “Haven’t decided” or “It depends” category. A lot more than in other countries. Take a stance first! You can change it if you have new information or new thoughts, but you need a stance to start with to anchor yourself. Also, when you don’t take a stance, depending on the context, you might be already on the side of somebody! I remember when I was at Stanford in my first year, and Bishop [Desmond] Tutu came to give a talk. I wasn’t there in the auditorium, but it was broadcasted on the radio live at that time. He told this story of the elephant and the rat. You might have heard it before? You stroll into this grassland and you see this elephant standing on the tail of a rat. If you sit on a fence and say, “I’m neutral, I’m not on either side,” then you’re already on the side of the elephant. That really stays with me and that’s what I want my students, or young people, to be aware of.
⏤What do you consider to be leadership? Or, alternatively, is there anyone you respect as a global leader?
D.K.:Not really. I don’t really read biographies and I don’t know anybody well enough to say, “This is the person!” But through the years, a lot of people have inspired me. For me, I think a good leader is one who can inspire and who can motivate others to take initiative to work towards a common goal. I respect those who give credit to others when they deserve it. I respect those who don’t always get on the center stage, if anything, they let other people have the center stage. I look up to those who are not afraid of making unpopular decisions. I think all these define what leadership is about.
⏤Please share your message to the younger generations who aspire to become future global leaders or who aspire to become change-makers.
D.K.: Study! I’m aware of all these narratives about, “Steve Jobs and Bill Gates dropped out of college, and you don’t really need an education to become successful!” But I just feel that, as I said earlier, knowledge doesn’t betray you. Also, there are so many things you learn in formal education, beyond the knowledge you acquire: you learn about social responsibility; you learn about ethics; you learn how to think critically; you learn how to see things as a whole, not just fragments of it; and you learn to be aware of the impact of your behavior, your actions, your decisions on others, not just focusing on yourself. Whatever you learn you’ll find a use for later on in life. Another thing that I feel is important is to take a long-term perspective with respect to your education. You can learn skills, you can learn accounting, how to balance a balance sheet—these are important skills. Then, “Why do you study philosophy? Why do you study literature? Why do you study sociology?” Well, because they cultivate the capacity to think, and this is a life skill. Critical thinking is a life skill. No matter what job you have, what career you pursue, you’re going to need that. And I always feel strongly about this.
⏤Education really is the key! I agree, I know that people may drop out of schools, and they go on to become successful, but they self-study as well. There’s always education behind them. You need to think of education in a long-term, or rather life-long perspective. You’re not just developing a vocation—skills are good to acquire, and it’s also good to get all these qualifications, but I do believe education in the best sense of the word is what gives you the foundation to be a global leader. Thank you very much for your precious time today, Professor Khor!
D.K.: Thank you! It’s been a while since I spoke this much English!