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Fiscal 2021 Message from the Chairman

Upon the occasion of being selected as the JAHS Society Chairman for fiscal 2021, I would like to remark on the current state of JAHS and my hopes for the Society.

The Japan Art History Society was established in June 1949 with 201 members, with the aim of promoting research activities related to art history. Upon the occasion of the 74th General Meeting of the Society held at Kobe University in May 2021, the society's current membership was noted as 2,233 members. This eleven-fold increase in membership over the past 70 plus years is a true reflection of the burgeoning increase in art historical research in Japan during that period.
And yet, if we reflect on art history studies, which are currently experiencing the constraints of existing frameworks within the ongoing dangerous period for humanities studies as a whole, I believe that many JAHS members share with me the concern that we should not be peacefully satisfied with the current state of our field. I also believe that we have arrived at a point in time in which JAHS itself must continue to not only preserve its good traditions but also set out in daring new directions.

JAHS operations are carried out by the Eastern and Western Divisions of the Standing Committee (with 18 Administrative Officers in the Eastern Division and 12 in the Western Division). A General Assembly is held once a year, while the Eastern and Western Divisions each hold five Regular Meetings per year, along with General Meetings and the co-organizing and support of other related activities each year. The late Tsuji Sahoko, Professor Emeritus at Ochanomizu Women’s University and Nagoya University, bequeathed funds to JAHS, which have been used to establish the Sahoko Tsuji Memorial Fund for the Promotion of Art Historical Study. This fund supports visits to Japan by foreign scholars.

The results of these activities and the research reports given at the General Assembly and Division Meetings are published in the scholarly journal Bijutsushi. Published semi-annually, Bijutsushi features articles that have undergone a strict review by the Editorial Committee and external readers. The Bijutsushi Prize is awarded annually to one to three articles that have been judged to be superior by the Prize Committee from amongst those published in that year’s Bijutsushi issues.
Work is progressing on Art History in Japan, a two-volume publication containing 20 of the previous Bijutsushi Prize winning articles translated into English. This publication is being jointly produced by Singapore University Press, Columbia University Press and the University of Tokyo Press. This publication aims to disseminate Japan’s rich cultural heritage and superb art historical research to audiences worldwide. This project was begun from the decision that not only individual scholars but also JAHS as a whole should take a more active stance in conveying information about Japanese culture and the state of research in Japan to worldwide audiences. We look forward to this book’s release in the near future.

JAHS has specific officers in charge of our liaisons with other organizations, such as our member who liaises with the Japanese Association for Art Studies that brings together academic art-related societies such as the Japan Society for Aesthetics, along with others who each liaise respectively with the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA) and the Conference of Eastern Studies and Asia Research.

As seen above, JAHS offers opportunities for research reports and publications, carries out its activities not only with the cooperation of universities and research institutes, but also art museums and related organizations, and strives towards internationalization. All of these projects and events fall within our stated aim to further art historical research activities.

Regarding the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI), the efforts of all JAHS members to increase the number of KAKENHI grants applications and those awarded have made an extremely important contribution to art history research. In the current KAKENHI List of Categories, Areas, Disciplines and Research Fields, Art History has been successfully maintained as an independent discipline within the Art Studies category. I believe that an even greater effort is necessary within this framework.

And yet, it is true that today JAHS faces various operational issues and challenges. In sum, membership numbers have slightly decreased, and there has been a slight decrease in member fees collected. Further, the percentage of members voting in the Standing Committee elections is too low. As well, it is increasingly difficult to convince universities to host our annual General Assemblies. The burden borne by the universities holding the General Assemblies, as well as the day-to-day operations of the Head Office and Eastern and Western Division Offices, are also problems to be resolved.

We must thus reduce the administrative work of the JAHS offices in general, and the efficient use of IT solutions can assist this process. As part of this effort we are shifting from a paper-based communications system to e-mail communications. We must also gain the understanding and cooperation of each committee member and individual member as we work towards improved Society procedures and systems.

Since 2020 the world has been grappling with the spread of Covid-19 and many core JAHS activities have been among those greatly affected by the pandemic. The Society has seen a succession of canceled face-to-face events and research report presentations. In the face of these difficulties JAHS as a whole has worked diligently to shift its important functions to an online format, including meetings of the Standing Committee and General Assembly.

In 2021, as the pandemic continues to restrict activities throughout Japan, JAHS will continue to use an online format for all of its Society functions. In the future we can anticipate shifting to an in-person or hybrid format, but given the current uncertainties, for the next while we will use online format meetings and communication.

JAHS continues to strive to provide an environment that supports advances in art historical research. I will work to help advance JAHS as an academic society active globally in our increasingly interconnected world, and a stimulating and fascinating academic society that fosters the next generation of scholars. I hope that each Society member will continue to cooperate with JAHS efforts and join me in furthering these goals.

September 2021

Miura Atsushi
Chairman, JAHS

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