KARASHIMA Noboru [ Academic Prize 1995 ]

Academic Prize 1995 [6th]
Japan / Area Studies, History
Born April 24, 1933 (aged62)

Professor Karashima Noboru is one of the world's authorities on historical studies on South Asia. He has searched for and studied inscribed materials, employing his profound insight and linguistic abilities. He has rewritten historical accounts on medieval South India and published a number of writings. Professor Karashima's contributions to mutual understanding between Japan and South Asia and development of area studies are immense.

* At the time of receipt of the Prize.
* Deceased
Award Citation

Professor Karashima Noboru is prominent scholar of Asia in the studies of South Indian and South Asian histories. It is not exaggerating to say that Professor Karashima has rewritten the historical accounts on South India. His interest is to throw light upon the whole picture of the historical processes in the development of South India's society. In doing so, Professor Karashima took a positivist standpoint based upon strict criticism he had of historical materials. In his area of scientific focus, which covers periods from the 10th to 17th centuries, a researcher has to refer to inscriptions carved on stone monuments and walls in temples as basic materials.

However, to read those epigraphs requires such high skills that many of his predecessors depended only upon the limited number of published references on epigraphs. Professor Karashima, on the other hand, has painstakingly worked to discover new historical facts by scrupulously reading Tamil inscriptions and statistically processing collected data on computer, while he has continued to search for unpublished materials on epigraphs in cooperation with Indian scholars. His proof that a landownership system already existed during the 12th to 13th centuries, which is the end of the Chola Dynasty, is one of such examples.

This was an epoch-making discovery in not only the history of South India, but that of South Asia. Furthermore, it presents a reliable criticism of conventional historical views which have supported the idea that Asian societies had long stagnated. In addition, Professor Karashima demonstrated excellent scholastic achievements in a variety of subjects, including studies on state administration, system, society, economics and life space in Indian history. In appreciation of these accomplishments, he was appointed President of the Epigraphical Society of India in 1985 and President of the International Association of Tamil Research in 1989 and thereafter. In the field of humanities and social sciences, it is very rare for a Japanese scholar to be named as a head of an academic society in the country of his or her scientific subject, and it plainly shows how highly his academic contributions have been evaluated.

It should also be emphasized that he had a prominent insight upon caste, ethnics, religion and other issues that are currently arising, by adding a viewpoint of an ordinary person in India to that of a historian in understanding South Asia. Such an attitude comes from his years' experience in residing in India as an exchange student. It is a critical viewpoint for an area study researcher to have. He further organizes and promotes international research projects contacting scholars in the concerned nations with the objective reexamining the historical relations between South Asia and Southeast Asia. In Japan, he has played a major role in the establishment of the Japanese Association for South Asian Studies as well as the compilation of encyclopedias, including "Cyclopedia of South Asia". Studies on South Asia in Japan could not have progressed if Professor Karashima had not been present.

Professor Noboru Karashima's global contributions to studies on South Indian history, promotion of mutual understanding between South Asia and Japan, and advancement of area studies on South Asia in Japan are genuinely monumental and make him a truly worthy recipient of the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes' Domestic Academic Prize.