My Research at Nichibunken
Seven months have already passed since I arrived at Nichibunken as a visiting research scholar in January 2021. When I reflect on what I have done during this time, it appears before me like a movie: the long journey from Inner Mongolia via Hong kong to Japan in the midst of the corona pandemic; my meetings with my counterpart and with the staff of the Research Cooperation Section, who welcomed me warmly, and prepared everything so I could settle in safely; and my encounter with the Nichibunken library archives. I have been blessed with the perfect research environment, and I am deeply grateful.
My research involves investigating from cultural-anthropological and historical perspectives medical hygiene as it relates to issues of birth, aging, life, and death. My research spans a vast geographical area from East Asia to North East Asia, and it concerns the history, society and culture of China, Mongolia and Japan. Since arriving at Nichibuken, my interest has focused exclusively on the enterprise of medical hygiene as it unfolded in Inner Mongolia in the first half of the twentieth century. The Nichibunken library holds many contemporary sources. I always read them feeling as though I am touching history itself in a permanent state of surprise and excitement.
Almost none of those who engaged with the business of medical hygiene as it developed in the Mongolian region were anthropologists, and yet they left for posterity many investigative reports on medical hygiene of which anthropologists would have been proud. My aim is to unravel these original sources, and delineate the historical process of change whereby modern medical hygiene was localized. How to describe my daily experience of research at Nichibunken? Well, I think of history and anthropology as two tracks heading into the future, and the trains traveling on these tracks as being in a constant dialogue with each other.