Collaboration with Prof. Anthony M. Elliott and Dr. Eric L. Hsu

published: 2015-06-15

On June 4 the Research Center for Ars Vivendi at Ritsumeikan University invited Prof. Anthony M. Elliott and Dr. Eric L. Hsu of the Hawke Research Institute at the University of South Australia and hosted a workshop, “Self/Body/Disability in the Reflexive Global Society.” The following is the workshop summary prepared by Prof. Elliott and Dr. Hsu.

Dr. Eric L. Hsu and I were kindly invited by A/Prof. Akira Inoue and Prof. Paul Dumouchel to present a workshop titled, Self/Body/Disability in the Reflexive Global Society, as part of the activities of the Research Center for Ars Vivendi at Ritsumeikan University. Workshop attendees included postgraduate students in the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, and some teaching and research staff.

The aim of the workshop was to present aspects of research that is being undertaken at the Hawke Research Institute at the University of South Australia, which is Australia's largest social science and humanities institute named after the longest serving Australian Labour Prime Minister, the Honourable Mr. Bob Hawke. The key theme of the workshop revolved around my research on 'reinvention' culture, and Dr. Hsu's work on 'social acceleration', which we think have bearing on the remit of the Ars Vivendi Center to better understand the 'art of living' in the contemporary era.

Dr. Hsu began the presentation by outlining the theory of social acceleration, as it has developed in a number of social science disciplines. He proposed ways of understanding social acceleration, which refers to the phenomenon of social life 'speeding up'. Dr. Hsu concluded his presentation by offering a number of reflections of what the study of disability might gain from engaging with the theory of social acceleration.

My presentation centred on a preoccupation of mine, which has fruitfully explored the idiom of 'reinvention' to capture some of the pressing social transformations of various parts of the contemporary social world. The 'art' of reinvention, as I demonstrated, is present in a number of cultural practices in the polished cities of the developed world, such as in the realm of therapy, air travel, and makeover culture.

In both mine and Dr. Hsu's presentation, there was a lively discussion that ensued and a number of interesting points, comments, and criticisms were raised. What was especially fruitful, in my view, was the discussion around the limits of the social acceleration concept. What Dr. Hsu and I have been arguing in recent publications is that the concept is in need of further theoretical refinement and empirical verification, which workshop participants and organizers were attuned to.

Over the last eight or so years, I have been working with colleagues in Japan to promote multilateral research collaborations involving Japanese and Australian academics. We have long felt that the interchange between Japanese, Australian, European and North American scholars need not only remain on the basis of different empirical contexts. Rather, there is much fruitful exchange to be had on social theoretical issues. Dr Hsu's and my visit to the Research Center for Ars Vivendi at Ritsumeikan University really spoke to this approach and the further need to develop research synergies across and within the Asia-Pacific.