Testing Times

Buoyed by the support its events had received thus far, IAFOR added conferences for the Spring of 2011 to the calendar. Cultural Studies, Asian Studies (ACCS/ACAS held concurrently); Ethics, Religion & Philosophy, and Psychology & the Behavioral Sciences (ACP/ACERP held concurrently), and Literature & Librarianship (LibrAsia held concurrently with ACAH) were all new events scheduled to take place at the end of March, 2011.

IAFOR was therefore set to welcome more than 700 delegates to conferences in Osaka at the end of March and beginning of April, when on March 11, Japan was hit by the Great Tohoku Earthquake. The resultant Tsunami would take the lives of more than twenty thousand people in the northeast of Japan, and also damage the Fukushima nuclear reactor.

Although western Japan was unaffected, and the conferences went ahead, they did so with depleted numbers, as many countries issued warnings advising against travel to Japan. However, the small events had a defiant energy of their own, and those present found ways of acknowledging and making sense of the ongoing events in their work and interactions.

In this context, the first winner of the Vladimir Devide Haiku Award was announced at The Asian Conference on Arts & Humanities (ACAH2011) in Osaka by Dr Drago Stambuk and one of Japan’s most noted poets, Kazuko Shiraishi. Both also gave readings that underlined the fragility and resolve of humans in times of adversity.

Professor Stuart D. B. Picken, Chairman of IAFOR and of the Japan Society of Scotland suggests raising funds for Tohoku through IAFOR, as part of the international relief effort.

This situation of uncertainty continued for several months, as the Japanese government struggled to bring the nuclear situation under control. For IAFOR, an organisation whose funding was generated by conference revenues, initially the future looked bleak, and its ongoing viability was brought into question. Two key decisions were made at this point. The first was the decision to continue; the resilience shown by the Japanese in the aftermath was remarkable and served as an inspiration to all involved. Giving up was not an option. The second was that once back on its feet, IAFOR would need to have operations in more than one country if it were to live up to its international mission, but also to ensure that it would be financially diverse enough to cope with the unexpected. An expansion to Hong Kong had been previously envisaged, but was put on hold due to the new financial circumstances. However, conferences over the summer and autumn recovered with surprising speed, as confidence grew in Japan and its recovery. By the end of the year, although only able to survive through the support of government-backed loans, the prognosis for the future looked more stable.

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