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Doctoral defence of Akiko Kosaka, MSW, 8.9.2023: A novel study sheds light on Japanese social work history

The doctoral dissertation in the field of Social Work will be examined at the faculty of Business and Social Sciences at Kuopio.

What is the topic of your doctoral research? Why is it important to study the topic?

My study explores how the idea of social work has formed in Japan since the late 19th century. I believe that each country or region has a unique social work history since social work is culture specific. However, while the history of social work around the world is diverse, its richness is not yet well-known. Japanese social work history is no exception. Because most literature on Japanese social work is written in Japanese, the social work history of Japan is not well known outside of the country. By writing this study in English, I aim to provide a narrative of Japanese social work history to international readers.

What are the key findings or observations of your doctoral research?

For providing a narrative of Japanese social work history, I focused on Seitaro Kubota, a government official who kept insisting on the necessity for the state to intervene against poverty. Based on my analysis of his thinking about poverty, I wrote a narrative of the genesis of Japanese social work. The reason I chose to focus on Kubota’s thinking about poverty was that he engaged in poverty intervention at a time when the government’s understanding of poverty and its intervention strategies had changed. Due to those changes, Kubota’s thinking about poverty also changed. However, Kubota did not change his understanding of the causes of poverty; he always thought that structures of society are the main causes of poverty.

How can the results of your doctoral research be utilised in practice?

Kubota’s belief that social structures are the cause of poverty offers an insight into contemporary society. I believe our public discussion of poverty places too much emphasis on personal responsibility. Kubota’s remarks on social structures as causes of poverty should be actively used to oppose this phenomenon.

What are the key research methods and materials used in your doctoral research?

For analysing Kubota’s thinking about poverty, I used his writings such as journal articles. It was difficult to decide what to focus on in those texts. But what was more challenging was describing Kubota’s ideas about poverty within the Japanese socio-political context of that time. Even though contextualizing his thinking was not my main focus, I worked hard on this matter because I wanted my readers who are not familiar with Japanese history to understand not only Kubota’s thinking about poverty but also its background.

The doctoral dissertation of Akiko Kosaka, MSW, entitled Seitaro Kubota’s thinking about poverty. A piece of Japanese social work history, will be examined at the faculty of Business and Social Sciences on 8.9.2023 at 12 noon in the Medistudia Building, Auditorium MS300. The Opponent will be Professor Emerita Leena Eräsaari, University of Jyväskylä, and the Custos will be Professor Emeritus Juha Hämäläinen, University of Eastern Finland. Language of the dissertation event is English.

Dissertation book online