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Japanese Society for the Study of Social Welfare Conference

Photo: Bette Dickerson, Misako Fukushima, and Cynthia Parris (from left to right)

In October, 2008, Professor Bette Dickerson and sociology doctoral student Cynthia Parris traveled to Japan to participate in a conference sponsored by the Japanese Society for the Study of Social Welfare. Dickerson was a member of a multi-nation research team funded through a grant sponsored by the Japanese Government to Dr. Kazuo Nakijima, principal investigator, Okayama Prefectural University. The conference provided an opportunity for research team members to present their findings and discuss the results of life course surveys conducted with undergraduate students in their respective countries (Japan, China, South Korea, France, Germany, and the United States), including here at American University. The survey had a goal to find data on the construction of a family welfare model that will contribute to the maintenance and improvement of societal well-being, while taking into account individuals’ life-course plans. A keynote presenter in the conference opening session, Dickerson presented findings from her research on African American single mothers and Black Feminist theory through simultaneous translation to a packed auditorium.

Most of the conference sessions were held at a conference center in the quaint city of Kurashiki with its traditional Japanese cultural environment. Very little English was spoken by most of the local population that Dickerson and Parris encountered, but they did not let that hinder their explorations. The pair carved out time at every opportunity to explore their surroundings, including the city of Kyoto, the original capital of Japan renowned for its scores of beautiful temples and shrines. They also spent some invaluable, memorable time with sociology alumna Misako Fukushima, MA/’05, who is currently living in Japan pursuing her doctorate. Fukushima’s contribution of knowledge of traditional customs and language were vital to Dickerson and Parris’ navigation of Osaka, and she served as a valuable guide for the remainder of their trip.