Trans-cultural Mobility and the Changing Notion of “Universality”: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Finding ‘Universality’

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Trans-cultural Mobility and the Changing Notion of “Universality”: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Finding ‘Universality’
Stream: Translation
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Norimasa Fujimoto, International Research Center For Japanese Studies, Japan (organizer, presenter)
Gouranga Charan Pradhan, International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Japan (presenter)
Tamara Schneider, Doshisha University, Japan (presenter)
Kenta Funahashi, Ryukoku University, Japan (chair)


The concept of "universality" once played a critical role in our understanding of culture. However, over the years, the concept has been criticized, mainly for its western centric foundation and fantasizing an idealized modernity. It is argued that universality has different meanings at diverse situations, for instance at local and trans-cultural levels, making our understanding of the concept dynamic and plural.

Universality, however remains critical to human activities because of its cognitive and social traits. Especially, in a highly globalized and connected world, it is important to know how the idea of universality is translated in the context of trans-cultural mobility and differentiated historicity. This panel takes a multidisciplinary approach and attempts to trace the historical understanding of the concept from three different fields: literature, religion, and art in the context of Japan’s interactions with the world.

The first paper by Gouranga deconstructs the universal-particular dichotomy, analyzing the global circulation of a Japanese literary text called Hōjōki (1212) during late ninetieth and early twentieth century. He explores the possibility of the role of translation practice to overcome this dichotomy. Then, Fujimoto discusses the history of Christian thoughts mainly in nineteenth century Japan to explore the ideational circulation of universal-particular. His studies show the plural meaning of universality in the trans-cultural contexts. Schneider, in the final paper, criticizes the universal criterion of aesthetics, focusing on the artist’s reactions to catastrophes and disasters. She shows that our understanding of universality is intertwined with social context and emerges from the social needs.