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 regulation with a concentrate on self-determination conflicts. His tutorial works have been printed by the Pacific Overview (2017) and World Coverage (2021).

What (or who) prompted probably 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 loads concerning the violence in areas reminiscent of 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 concentrate on self-determination conflicts which I believed would most likely require completely different units of options from circumstances the place combatants intention at capturing central governments. Furthermore, as a naïve undergraduate pupil, I felt that many tutorial works analyzed the latter somewhat than the previous, so I believed there is perhaps a distinct segment to fill. There’s a cause for this naivety; in a lot of the programs on battle and peacebuilding on the undergraduate and even postgraduate degree, core readings hardly ever focus on options for self-determination conflicts reminiscent of 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, a logo of their nation, by no means touched the ground whereas Japanese college students didn’t present any sturdy issues about their row of flags), I used to be concerned about nationalist conflicts the place fighters and their leaders are more than pleased to die for the sake of their nation. Certainly, in self-determination conflicts, rebels normally have little probability of victory in opposition to sturdy central governments as they struggle with few weapons of their very own and with out worldwide help or sympathy. To me, it was comprehensible for individuals to be prepared to die for causes reminiscent of faith—when it guarantees an afterlife in heaven—however why did nationalist fighters sacrifice themselves for the unrealistic objective of independence? Isn’t it attainable 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 tutorial profession.

You lately printed a piece evaluating autonomy preparations as an answer to self-determination conflicts, with a selected concentrate on 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 possibility to put in writing a analysis paper. I believed 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 Overview in 2017) evaluating the Indonesian authorities’s insurance policies on Aceh and Papua. However I then began to understand that this Pacific Overview article didn’t totally clarify why Aceh’s battle was peacefully settled in 2005.

In truth, Aceh is an distinctive case as a result of it has been argued that ethnonational conflicts are usually tough to resolve by autonomy for 2 causes. First, governments have a tendency to not supply 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 supply 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 for future self-determination) may be very restricted.

This commentary made me discover why the battle in Aceh was resolved by 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. Regardless that the peripheral and weak rebels imposed solely a restricted risk and price per yr, the struggle 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 after they believed that their autonomy was internationally assured. These findings have implications for policymakers after they intention at settling a self-determination battle peacefully by autonomy.

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

This weblog publish 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 just accept a wide-ranging autonomy whereas, within the latter, they have been prepared to endorse self-determination for varied causes.

Whether or not self-determination and independence are a solution to self-determination conflicts relies on the context. In clear decolonization circumstances reminiscent of 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 in opposition to and political exclusion of minorities underneath a lot of completely different administrations (e.g., the battle in Southern Sudan). In these circumstances, I consider a case will be made that minorities must be given the suitable to self-determination. It’s because such discrimination is unlikely to finish if it has endured for many years. Nonetheless, dividing the state into two doesn’t supply an computerized answer. On one hand, the independence of a brand new state would doubtlessly deliver concerning the problem of “trapped minorities”: for instance, Serbs that stay in Kosovo. Then again, even with out this trapped minority problem, newly unbiased 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 may very well 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 degree and what would you intend as a substitute?

Extreme optimism is mostly a giant downside in politics as is obvious from the present Covid pandemic. That is true in peacebuilding as properly. Submit-2003 Iraq is a working example. The American authorities claimed that its intervention in Iraq may produce outcomes much like post-WWII Japan or Germany with out totally realizing the large variations between the previous and the latter. In truth, we must be very cautious as peacebuilding fairly often fails to supply the peace, democracy, and growth 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 commentary that they have been united behind independence as exhibited within the referendum course of and consequence. The worldwide actors failed to understand {that a} completely different post-conflict section 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 properly ready to stop the introduction of dictatorship in Eritrea, the 2006 disaster in East Timor, and the 2013 civil struggle 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. Typically, we should always rely extra on regional specialists and native researchers when serious about construct peace in these war-torn societies. Historical past issues, and in conflict-ridden societies, historical past is sophisticated.

Do you assume your worldwide expertise, residing in Japan after which transferring to the UK for doctoral work, has modified/re-shaped your work/views in any manner?

This isn’t a brand new commentary in any respect, nevertheless it made me aware of the risks 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, relating to East Timor, necessary actors within the worldwide neighborhood are states reminiscent of Japan and Australia. In distinction, regarding South Sudan, the USA, the UK, and Norway, along with regional powers reminiscent of Ethiopia and Uganda, are crucial 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 reminiscent of 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 strain exerted by each developed and creating states in the course of the post-referendum violence orchestrated by the Indonesian navy in East Timor in September 1999 is a working example. On this particular case, this strain made the Indonesian authorities settle for the worldwide drive to stabilize the scenario in East Timor. Equally, the latest act of terrorism at Kabul’s airport in August 2021 was condemned by varied Western, non-Western, and creating international locations. However usually, we must be cautious once we use the time period “worldwide neighborhood.” In truth, after I offered 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 at the moment engaged on?

I’m at the moment targeted on publishing my findings from my doctoral thesis within the type of tutorial journal articles and a guide. 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 at the moment writing a spin-off article from my doctoral examine which argues that the 2006 disaster in East Timor and the 2013 civil struggle in South Sudan took place resulting from related causes. Past these occasions, nevertheless, it’s putting 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 beneath).

What’s the most Vital recommendation you possibly can give to younger students of Worldwide Relations?

Worldwide Relations is an attention-grabbing and numerous subject which lacks coherence. I strongly counsel that you just find out about completely different approaches (from realism to constructivism, important theories, and feminism) and completely different methodologies (from quantitative analyses to case choice and discourse analyses), with out assuming that one explicit “-ism” or methodology is superior to others.

For those who plan to work on the problems of nations the place you could have 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 observe it. Particularly, if you’re not from the area, that’s all of the extra cause to stay there so as to perceive the area, the nation, its individuals, and its tradition, given your weaker familiarity with the world.

In case you are concerned about remaining in academia, I’ve two additional items of recommendation. First, it’s worthwhile to take into account how sturdy your dedication is to stay in academia. Is that this your prime precedence? For instance, are you prepared to maneuver to an unfamiliar nation to proceed your tutorial profession distant from your loved ones and mates? In case you are a western researcher learning postcolonialism, are you maybe prepared to maneuver and contribute to a non-western establishment? Moreover, when you have a associate, are they prepared to maneuver with you, or are you able to keep a long-distance relationship (and for a way lengthy)? This isn’t to say that there isn’t any researcher who can stay in the identical metropolis all through their complete tutorial profession, however this isn’t quite common. It’s helpful if you can begin to consider your solutions to those questions earlier somewhat than later.

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

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