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Roundtables

The main academic component of the conference is the "Roundtable". Each Roundtable consists of four Japanese delegates and four American delegates, and is led by one to two Executive Committee Roundtable Coordinators. Delegates are a part of a Roundtable the entire conference that focuses on a specific topic within the context of U.S.-Japan relations.

2020 Roundtables:

Culture and Identity: Examining Influence on the Society and the Individual

Culture is a fundamental facet of humanity permeating all aspects of our existence, from the seemingly mundane customs of everyday life to nationwide events of importance. While differences in culture are especially evident across borders and seas, they can also be seen within societies and communities. These differences, whether appreciated or condemned, simultaneously expose the illusion of homogeneity among people and illuminate the complexity of humankind.

This roundtable will consider culture in a variety of contexts, including identity, colonization, and globalization. Topics such as appropriation and assimilation will foster meaningful discussions regarding the use and disuse of culture, while the question of the merit of its preservation (or lack thereof) will approach ideas regarding its place in society. Additionally, the concepts of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism will provide general perspectives from which to consider culture, allowing for broad, and subsequently precise, analysis of this complex characteristic of humanity. It is our goal to glean not only a deeper understanding of culture in both Japan and the United States, but also to reflect upon our individual roles regarding culture, as well as its functions around the world.

Roundtable Leader: Kerry Walker
Contact Roundtable Leader: jasc72.kwalker@gmail.com

Environment and Development: Sustainability Within A Modernized World

Both development and the natural environment are things that make human lives wealthier and more convenient. Development is vital for developing countries in terms of economy and the future of the country. Urbanization gives us more places to work, which encourages people to make more money and make a country's economy better. Humanity uses natural resources like land, minerals, and water for building factories that play an important role in industry, houses that are the basis of our lives, and cities which rely upon the tourist and transportation industries.

However, in our society environmental issues such as deforestation for developmental property, the loss of biodiversity, and climate change occurs faster than the speed of nature’s ability to recover. With this context, discussing the environment with knowledge on development is urgently imperative in today's world.

In this roundtable, we want to analyze the root causes of the issues and stereotypes, through topics like politics, economics, business, and international relations. We, the students, are taking over the Earth. Nowadays, more and more people are standing up and claiming it. The value in this discussion is the relevance: more and more people are becoming more aware about environmental issues. We expect delegates to make new discoveries and learn new points of view.

Roundtable Leader: Madeline Wiltse
Contact Roundtable Leader: jasc72.mwiltse@gmail.com

Hard Power and Individuals: Diplomatic Decision-Making and Civilians

The history of mankind can be said to be conducted upon hard power. From the Troia War all the way to the Rice Trade Friction, nations have restrained and cooperated through various forms such as diplomatic means, war and economic policies. However, the significance of these hard power politics can be questioned due to the vast opportunities of international contact between individuals in this ever so globalized world. This round table will discuss various issues regarding North Korea, Japan-US security treaty and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty from the perspectives of the United States of America and Japan. Simultaneously, delegates will discuss the effect of hard power upon civilians. As The Japan America Student Conference is built upon the idea of “World peace is built within the pacific and the peace within the pacific is built between the peace of Japan and the US. Thus, students should also take one wing of this.”, this round table will discuss the significance and risk of hard power in the macro context of international relations at the same time as analyzing it from a micro perspective of individuals.

Roundtable Leader: Ryuichiro Suzuki
Contact Roundtable Leader: jasc72.rsuzuki@gmail.com

Health and Society: The Social Construction and Consequences of Human Well-Being

Why do some people live longer than others? What is considered good medical care and who has access to it? Health is a basic human need and also one of the most commercialized commodities. We often advocate for affordable, accessible healthcare and have ethical debates on various treatments. Yet in academia, health has traditionally been seen as a purely physical and biological issue, and debates have focused on the realms of biomedical studies, psychology and the like. However, while often undermined, social conditions such as gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic stratification also affect individual well-being. Furthermore, the roles that social institutions and policies such as the Criminal Justice System, healthcare systems like Medicare, and immigration policy play on the individual can not be underrated. In fact, it seems impossible to detach social factors from human health and wellness. A closer analysis of human health from a holistic and sociological standpoint will also lend insight and new perspectives to some of society’s critical issues today, including drug addiction and gun violence.

This roundtable seeks to explore how social determinants and institutions influence all aspects of human health. In the context of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, we also aim to discuss health-related behaviors, such as diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption in addition to the various social determinants of well-being. Additionally, we will be comparing how social response and medical systems for mental illness differ between Japan and the United States, specifically focusing on vulnerable populations including the youth, elderly, offenders, veterans, disaster survivors and immigrants. This roundtable aims to shed light on invisible populations and conventional institutions for a better understanding of the health and well-being of Japanese and American societies.

Roundtable Leader: Emily Marlowe
Contact Roundtable Leader: jasc72.emarlowe@gmail.com

Labor and Work Culture: Through the Lens of Gender

How does the topic of “gender” apply to the field of labor and contribute to differences in work culture? How can gender be used both as cause for discrimination and an advantage for hire? When the subject of gender is first brought up, most people immediately think to the protesting, bra-burning tactics of Second Wave Feminism beginning in the 1960’s. However, gender applies to most aspects of our lives whether we would like to admit it or not. In the corporate world, wage gaps, lack of maternity leave, and expectations of femininity in networking leave little room to advance for women in the workforce. In Japan, the role women are most often expected to serve in the household is that of a caretaker and homemaker: although these kinds of ideals may be considered “traditional” or “old-fashioned,” they do still exist in the US as well.

This roundtable not only aims to analyze the persistence of female oppression in both the United States and Japan, but also the industries in which they have an overwhelming advantage. Why are airline stewardesses in Japan such highly-coveted positions when they maintain strict expectations for a youthful and attractive appearance? How has the importance of masculinity changed in Japan and the United States, especially following the social pressure of World War II? How can we make workplaces inclusive to members of the LGBTQ+ community, and those who don’t exist in defined labels of gender? We will examine the ways in which gender and social expectations impact not only our lives, but also our ability to succeed in a capitalist system.

Roundtable Leader: Carly Shiever
Contact Roundtable Leader: jasc72.cshiever@gmail.com

Media and Democracy: Individual-Society Dimensions in Today’s World

According to the World Press Freedom Index, in recent years, both the United States and Japan have dropped significantly in their reputation for freedom of the press and are now the two worst-ranked G7 countries in this regard. In Japan, the media landscape is uniquely closed because of the exceptionally strong ties between an established “media club” and the politicians, which undermines the supposed independence of the press. Furthermore, many aspects of news stories continue to be censored. Comparatively, while the media environment in the U.S. is more diverse, the growing presence of “Big Data” collected through oftentimes biased political coverage precludes individuals from receiving unbiased information. This is further exacerbated by the increasingly common pattern of labeling respectable media outlets as “fake news,” which ultimately further complicates the role that a free and open media is meant to play in U.S. democracy. In a world increasingly characterized by populism and tribal politics, the role of the Fourth Estate is more important than ever in the fight against authoritarianism.

Within the context of the upcoming U.S. presidential election in 2020, this roundtable aims to address the following questions and beyond: Has the fundamental role of media shifted from connecting people to dividing people? How do we nurture our political stances in an increasingly biased media environment? What impact can the media have on the future of strong democracies?

Roundtable Leader: Alec Mesropian
Contact Roundtable Leader: jasc72.amesropian@gmail.com

Threat and Cyberspace: 21st Century Technology and its Indemnifications

Technology has historically been closely related to security and warfare- technological innovations in WWI and WWII, for example, created weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. However, technology has made remarkable progress, transforming the means of both warfare and national security. In today’s cyberspace world of the 21st century, issues of human and individual rights arise as personal information is diverted and privacy is violated with the emergence of cyber warfare and other new forms of war. Especially in light of the 75th anniversary marking the commencement of WWII, this shifting role of technology and security is prominent in US-Japan relations. What does it mean to conduct international relations in cyberspace? What are the problems and consequences of technological advancements? Can technology protect both the nation and the peoples’ best interests? What does the future have in store for technology and national security? How can we use technology for peaceful means? In this RT, we hope to answer these questions and more while exploring the evolution of technology and security of both the United States and Japan.

Roundtable Leader: Celinda Chang
Contact Roundtable Leader: jasc72.cchang@gmail.com