Professor Augustin Berque is one of the leading Japanologists and cultural geographers in France. He has developed philosophical theories about European and Japanese human societies and space/landscape/nature, and established a unique academic concept, Ecoumene. His empirical approach towards Japanese culture has contributed greatly to understanding Japan, and has been internationally praised.
Professor Berque was born in French Morocco in 1942 and is a third-generation scholar, his father and grandfather both being academics. He studied geography and Chinese at the University of Paris, and received a Ph.D. Coming to Japan for the first time in 1969, he has since then stayed in Japan intermittently for a total of more than a decade, during which period he has combined a thorough understanding of the Japanese value structure with a profound philosophical understanding of the fundamentals of human existence and nature/space - and has thus accumulated a body of research in the field of Japanese Studies - unrivalled in its solidity.
In his many publications, Professor Berque has introduced a new concept called trajectivite (trajectivity), which means the interactive relationship between culture and nature, between the collective and the individual, and between subjectivity and objectivity in actual societies in Europe and in Japan. Through a profound reading of‘Fudo’(1935) by Tetsuro Watsuji(1889-1960), he presented a theory about ethnicity and trajectivite by combining geography and ontology: the existence of humanity in Japan is chiselled into the country’s nature, and the interactive coexistence of the two is indeed Japanese fudo (environmental milieu). Fudo is not simply the natural environment, but constitutes the foundation of the societies within which people live; and through the interactions between nature, space and history, changes occur and fudo will be further transformed. With his keen insight, Professor Berque points out the social characteristics common throughout Japan in the spiritual, social and physical spaces which compose the overall order which is maintained by society. In his research, Watsuji's fudo theory is understood in connection with the German philosopher Martin Heidegger's (1889-1976) phenomenology, taking a comparative approach to European and Japanese thought. As his theoretical framework evolved, he developed a critique of Rene Descartes(1596-1650) and so established an independent field of ‘fudo studies', through which he has been reassessing Japan's place in global history.
With this as his foundation, Professor Berque has tackled current issues such as landscape, environment and communality, applying his profound knowledge and coherent logic, and the message implicit in his universally-relevant paradigm has earned much respect.
Besides his many achievements in Japanese Studies, Professor Berque has made a significant contribution to cultural exchange between Japan and France as one of the most pro-Japanese French intellectuals, including his work as Dean of Nichifutsu Kaikan (Maison Franco-Japonaise) in Tokyo for four years from 1984.
Professor Augustin Berque has opened up the new and distinctive field of ‘fudo studies', has constructed entirely new theories, and has presented both to the Japanese and to other people in the world a fresh perspective from which to understand Japanese culture scientifically. For this great contribution, he is truly worthy of the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.