James E. Roberson
(Professor of Anthropology Tokyo Jogakkan College)
On the importance of a Science of Human Services, From the perspective of Cultural Anthropology

 The efforts of the Human Services Research Center at the Institute of Human Science at Ritsumeikan University to formulate a syncretic Science of Human Services are to be welcomed with high expectations and encouraged with urgency. As we enter further into the 21st Century, the importance of integrated and encompassing theoretical perspectives on and practical approaches to the needs of people will increase with speed and immediacy.

 This is true both for Japan and globally. In Japan, social and demographic phenomenon that will increasingly require the theoretically sophisticated and practically oriented integration of human sciences and human services include a declining birthrate, the aging of society, increasing numbers of single-parent households, the expanding labor force participation by women, various forms of interpersonal and sexual violence, and ongoing efforts to widen the opportunities for the dignified social inclusion of peoples with disabilities. These and other local issues will ever-increasingly articulate with global phenomenon such as international migration-including that by refugees-the multi-dimensional human consequences of poverty and of environmental degradation, armed conflict and other forms of violence, and other consequences of social and economic transformations.

 As suggested by the above, in pragmatically addressing these phenomena, we need to be sensitive to the articulation of local social-cultural specificity and more globally manifest factors and processes. Furthermore, we need to be able to understand the complex reflexivities of individual decision-making and action with contextualizing structures, forces and systems. The four project units for collaborative research in the Science of Human Services approach appear well conceived in enabling consideration of and response to such complex, multidimensional and reflexive phenomena.

 The Science of Human Services in many ways resembles the holistic approach of Cultural Anthropology, especially in terms of the subfields of medical anthropology and applied anthropology. The goal in both is to construct analyses and to propose practical solutions that are based on culturally sensitive and pragmatic understandings of human needs as simultaneously socially and individually manifest. The goal in both as well is to work toward the construction of integrated and inclusive understandings and solutions that advocate the empowerment of those in less privileged positions and that respect cultural and individual diversity and difference. There is no doubt that the Science of Human Services will benefit from by considering anthropological perspectives and approaches, and that cultural anthropologists will benefit from participating in the ongoing development of a truly human Science of Human Services.