Interview – Kentaro Fujikawa


This interview is a part of a sequence of interviews with teachers and practitioners at an early stage of their profession. The interviews focus on present analysis and initiatives, in addition to recommendation for different early profession students.

Kentaro Fujikawa just lately joined the Graduate Faculty of Worldwide Growth at Nagoya College, Japan, as Affiliate Professor to show peacebuilding and safety research. He beforehand labored as a Fellow in Worldwide Relations on the London Faculty of Economics and Political Science, the place he additionally acquired his doctoral diploma. He has been working on the intersection of worldwide relations, comparative politics, and worldwide legislation with a deal with self-determination conflicts. His educational works have been printed by the Pacific Assessment (2017) and World Coverage (2021).

What (or who) prompted essentially the most vital shifts in your considering or inspired you to pursue your space of analysis?

I began to develop my curiosity in self-determination conflicts throughout my undergraduate examine on the College of Tokyo. This was partially as a result of I heard so much in regards to the violence in areas equivalent to Palestine and Darfur whereas I used to be rising up. As I began to hope to contribute to the settlement of those wars, I made a decision to deal with self-determination conflicts which I assumed would in all probability require totally different units of options from circumstances the place opponents purpose at capturing central governments. Furthermore, as a naïve undergraduate pupil, I felt that many educational works analyzed the latter quite than the previous, so I assumed there is perhaps a distinct segment to fill. There’s a purpose for this naivety; in many of the programs on battle and peacebuilding on the undergraduate and even postgraduate stage, core readings hardly ever focus on options for self-determination conflicts equivalent to autonomy, partition, or a self-determination referendum.

Additionally, in hindsight, rising up in a not-so-overtly nationalistic nation of Japan (for instance, I as soon as attended a global pupil convention; there, college students from Brunei took nice care in order that their row of flags, an emblem of their nation, by no means touched the ground whereas Japanese college students didn’t present any robust issues about their row of flags), I used to be concerned about nationalist conflicts the place fighters and their leaders are very happy to die for the sake of their nation. Certainly, in self-determination conflicts, rebels often have little likelihood of victory towards robust central governments as they battle with few weapons of their very own and with out worldwide assist or sympathy. To me, it was comprehensible for individuals to be prepared to die for causes equivalent to faith—when it guarantees an afterlife in heaven—however why did nationalist fighters sacrifice themselves for the unrealistic objective of independence? Isn’t it doable for them to be happy with substantial autonomy? Is self-determination actually the reply to the issues they’re dealing with? I’ve been motivated by these questions all through my educational profession.

You lately printed a piece evaluating autonomy preparations as an answer to self-determination conflicts, with a specific deal with Aceh in Indonesia. Might you inform us a bit about what drew you to this particular space of debate/country-specific instance and what your main findings have been?

My curiosity in Aceh additionally originated from my undergraduate examine after I had a chance to put in writing a analysis paper. I assumed Indonesia, which has had three self-determination conflicts—Aceh, Papua, and East Timor–was an attention-grabbing avenue for comparability. I additional wrote a grasp’s dissertation on the London Faculty of Economics (a revised model of which was printed in the Pacific Assessment in 2017) evaluating the Indonesian authorities’s insurance policies on Aceh and Papua. However I then began to appreciate that this Pacific Assessment article didn’t totally clarify why Aceh’s battle was peacefully settled in 2005.

In actual fact, Aceh is an distinctive case as a result of it has been argued that ethnonational conflicts are usually troublesome to resolve via autonomy for 2 causes. First, governments have a tendency to not provide substantial concessions as a result of ethnonational rebels, merely working within the periphery and being militarily weak (with out heavy weapons), don’t pose threats to them. Second, even when governments provide autonomy, rebels have problem accepting it, as they’re apprehensive that the autonomy association can be unilaterally abolished sooner or later. Certainly, the variety of peace agreements settling battle decisively with autonomy alone (i.e., excluding the potential of future self-determination) could be very restricted.

This statement made me discover why the battle in Aceh was resolved via autonomy in 2005. I discovered that the federal government was prepared to supply vital concessions because it was conscious of the long-term value of the battle. Though the peripheral and weak rebels imposed solely a restricted risk and value per 12 months, the battle would nonetheless be pricey in the long run as a result of ethnonational conflicts are likely to final for many years. On the a part of the rebels, they have been prepared to signal the autonomy association solely once they believed that their autonomy was internationally assured. These findings have implications for policymakers once they purpose at settling a self-determination battle peacefully via autonomy.

One other of your latest pieces appeared particularly at self-determination referendums as ‘peace-bringers’ in a number of international locations, equivalent to East Timor, South Sudan and Eritrea. How did the outcomes of this work examine to your earlier findings on autonomy preparations?

This weblog put up summarizes the findings from my doctoral thesis. The primary distinction between Aceh and the circumstances I examined on this work was that within the former, the worldwide neighborhood (and worldwide mediators) pressured each the rebels and the central authorities to simply accept a wide-ranging autonomy whereas, within the latter, they have been prepared to endorse self-determination for numerous causes.

Whether or not self-determination and independence are a solution to self-determination conflicts is dependent upon the context. In clear decolonization circumstances equivalent to East Timor or Western Sahara, native residents have the inalienable proper to self-determination. Past decolonization circumstances, there are self-determination conflicts which linger for many years due to the constant discrimination towards and political exclusion of minorities below quite a lot of totally different administrations (e.g., the battle in Southern Sudan). In these circumstances, I consider a case might be made that minorities ought to be given the proper to self-determination. It’s because such discrimination is unlikely to finish if it has persevered for many years. Nonetheless, dividing the state into two doesn’t provide an automated answer. On one hand, the independence of a brand new state would probably deliver in regards to the concern of “trapped minorities”: for instance, Serbs that stay in Kosovo. However, even with out this trapped minority concern, newly impartial states, typically with very restricted institutional capacities, face an enormous activity to achieve success in peacebuilding.

You additionally argue that some adverse outcomes of post-conflict self-determination referendums might be mitigated. You write that “the extreme optimism by worldwide actors is a matter of notion and thus, not inevitable”. Why do you see this as problematic on a global coverage stage and what would you intend as a substitute?

Extreme optimism is mostly an enormous drawback in politics as is clear from the present Covid pandemic. That is true in peacebuilding as effectively. Put up-2003 Iraq is a working example. The American authorities claimed that its intervention in Iraq might produce outcomes just like post-WWII Japan or Germany with out totally realizing the large variations between the previous and the latter. In actual fact, we ought to be very cautious as peacebuilding fairly often fails to provide the peace, democracy, and improvement it units out to attain.

Within the particular circumstances I checked out (Eritrea, East Timor, and South Sudan), extreme optimism emerged amongst worldwide actors as a result of they wrongly believed that the elites and residents have been united in these newly established states. This misunderstanding resulted from their statement that they have been united behind independence as exhibited within the referendum course of and end result. The worldwide actors failed to understand {that a} totally different post-conflict part would emerge as soon as the battle was over. This false impression meant that worldwide actors failed to concentrate to the political divisions among the many native elites, and weren’t effectively ready to stop the introduction of dictatorship in Eritrea, the 2006 disaster in East Timor, and the 2013 civil battle in South Sudan.

So as to not be trapped by this extreme optimism, we should always put extra emphasis on the political tradition and historical past of the area/state in query. Normally, we should always rely extra on regional specialists and native researchers when fascinated about how you can construct peace in these war-torn societies. Historical past issues, and in conflict-ridden societies, historical past is difficult.

Do you suppose your worldwide expertise, dwelling in Japan after which shifting to the UK for doctoral work, has modified/re-shaped your work/views in any method?

This isn’t a brand new statement in any respect, nevertheless it made me aware of the hazards of speaking about “the worldwide neighborhood” as if it have been a single actor. Very often, the view of “the worldwide neighborhood” is formed by a small variety of states. Moreover, they’re typically not the identical states relying on the problem and the place at stake. For instance, concerning East Timor, essential actors within the worldwide neighborhood are states equivalent to Japan and Australia. In distinction, regarding South Sudan, the USA, the UK, and Norway, along with regional powers equivalent to Ethiopia and Uganda, are an important actors within the worldwide neighborhood. Apparently, Indonesia or Sudan doesn’t appear to be a part of this stated worldwide neighborhood in every case as a result of they’re seen as an occasion. However then international locations equivalent to Australia and Uganda even have vital stakes in these circumstances. In that sense, who’s a part of the worldwide neighborhood and who’s an occasion are socially constructed.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any occasional circumstances the place the worldwide neighborhood appears to talk with one voice, representing the viewpoints of residents all over the world. The stress exerted by each developed and creating states in the course of the post-referendum violence orchestrated by the Indonesian army in East Timor in September 1999 is a working example. On this particular case, this stress made the Indonesian authorities settle for the worldwide drive to stabilize the state of affairs in East Timor. Equally, the latest act of terrorism at Kabul’s airport in August 2021 was condemned by numerous Western, non-Western, and creating international locations. However basically, we ought to be cautious after we use the time period “worldwide neighborhood.” In actual fact, after I introduced my analysis in Japan, one researcher advised me that it was maybe higher to make use of the time period “worldwide actors” than “worldwide neighborhood.” Whereas I don’t all the time adhere to this recommendation, this level is value noting.

What are you presently engaged on?

I’m presently centered on publishing my findings from my doctoral thesis within the type of educational journal articles and a e book. I’m additionally extending my analyses of post-conflict self-determination referendums to the latest case: the 2019 referendum in Bougainville. Within the meantime, I’m creating my curiosity within the burgeoning insurgent governance literature. One of many goals of this literature is to attempt to perceive why some rebels, typically dedicated to democracy, human rights, and open society, find yourself in an authoritative mode of governance. This literature would possibly assist clarify, for instance, why peacebuilding in East Timor has been largely a hit (regardless of the setback of the 2006 Disaster) whereas peacebuilding in South Sudan has suffered from successive civil wars.

I’m additionally presently writing a spin-off article from my doctoral examine which argues that the 2006 disaster in East Timor and the 2013 civil battle in South Sudan took place because of related causes. Past these occasions, nevertheless, it’s hanging to see that East Timor’s peacebuilding has largely been profitable whereas South Sudan continues to be struggling. I plan to look at why that is the case (see under).

What’s the most Necessary recommendation you would give to younger students of Worldwide Relations?

Worldwide Relations is an attention-grabbing and various discipline which lacks coherence. I strongly recommend that you simply find out about totally different approaches (from realism to constructivism, crucial theories, and feminism) and totally different methodologies (from quantitative analyses to case choice and discourse analyses), with out assuming that one specific “-ism” or methodology is superior to others.

Should you plan to work on the problems of nations the place you’ve got by no means lived, I counsel you to stay there for a few years. This was the recommendation I acquired from my supervisor on the College of Tokyo, and I remorse that I didn’t comply with it. Particularly, in case you are not from the area, that’s all of the extra purpose to stay there as a way to perceive the area, the nation, its individuals, and its tradition, given your weaker familiarity with the realm.

In case you are concerned about remaining in academia, I’ve two additional items of recommendation. First, you have to contemplate how robust your dedication is to stay in academia. Is that this your high precedence? For instance, are you prepared to maneuver to an unfamiliar nation to proceed your educational profession far-off from your loved ones and pals? In case you are a western researcher finding out postcolonialism, are you maybe prepared to maneuver and contribute to a non-western establishment? Moreover, when you’ve got a companion, are they prepared to maneuver with you, or are you able to preserve a long-distance relationship (and for the way lengthy)? This isn’t to say that there isn’t a researcher who can stay in the identical metropolis all through their complete educational profession, however this isn’t quite common. It’s helpful if you can begin to consider your solutions to those questions earlier quite than later.

If, after cautious consideration, you continue to wish to stay in academia, my second piece of recommendation is to publish your grasp’s dissertation (or presumably seminar papers for US PhD applications) in a tutorial journal. Even when it doesn’t obtain the very best grade, your dissertation would possibly nonetheless be publishable. Certainly, my grasp’s dissertation from LSE acquired a excessive benefit, however a revised model was printed in a revered journal. Having one journal article printed at an early stage is not going to solely increase your CV but additionally assist you become familiar with the principles of the sport in academia.

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