Development and Organization of Death and Life Studies
Prof. ICHINOSE, Masaki, program leader
Beginning in March 2010, I was named leader (and successor to our former leader, Professor Susumu Shimazono) of the Global COE Development and Systemization of Death and Life Studies program.
Although our project has only two years left, I hope, based on our prior efforts, to continue what we have hitherto accomplished and to see our project reach a fruitful conclusion.
As directly evinced by our past endeavors, Death and Life Studies is an attempt at creating a new cross-disciplinary academic field. While based on the fundamental insights of the humanities (i.e., philosophy, ethics, religious studies, sociology), our pedagogical and research activities have developed through the mutual permeation between the humanities and such varied disciplines as medicine, nursing sciences, life sciences, legal studies (law), and educational studies.
Of course, as the title “Death” and “Life” Studies indicates. and although we are unified in our attempt at investigating the problems posed by “death” and “life” and their mutual connection.the ways in which we problematize and broach these issues is highly varied.
Inquiry from the perspective of the principles and thought patterns found at the normative level of discourse on death and life, and through the approach of pursuing the meaning of this discourse at the historical and cultural level (and also from the standpoint of various issues found at the practical and clinical level) we have problematized Death and Life Studies from a range of perspectives, and sought to clarify these issues to the utmost degree.
Specifically, the question of medical decision-making; the problem of psychiatry and criminal responsibility; eugenics; mortuary practices; bioethics and end of life care; the meaning of death and life in the myriad religions; the war dead and those who suffered an untimely fate; continuing education for medical practitioners; the issue of grief work; animal ethics; and so forth are all examples of topics that we have dealt with or are currently attempting to address.
In the future, we hope, with further resolve, to continue our educational and academic programs while expanding our multi-faceted approach to death and life.
Simultaneously, we must emphasize that this project is Death and Life Studies [i.e., it is an academic discipline]. In being an academic discipline.or at least in aiming to become one. Death and Life Studies must not be limited to the dimension of simply expressing personal views on death and life, marshaling data, [claiming that death and life can be simply understood through, say,] the performance of meditative experience, and so on.
It is vital that we establish logical and rational arguments based on objective and empirical evidence. Further, and of most import, is the fact that, no matter how ultimately broad, we must create unique methods of inquiry and develop conditions and criterion for the establishment of Death and Life Studies as an academic discipline.
In reality, there is no absolute and unchanging space of demarcation for a given academic discipline. Rather, it is natural that disciplines slowly change based on temporal conditions and social situations. If so, it is greatly anticipated that Death and Life Studies, which we aim to establish, will gain autonomy as a true academic discipline in the near future. When we come to see the dawn of this new discipline, just what kind of academic environment will emerge. Eager to fulfill such expectations, we are further determined to concentrate on our educational and research activities and, step by step , advance our discipline.