Princeton, University of Tokyo collaborate on transnational project analyzing policing and democracy
In fall 2019, the interdisciplinary project “Policing, Public Space and Democracy” received a Princeton-University of Tokyo Strategic Partnership grant. The project is a collaboration among faculty members from the Center for Transnational Policing, Princeton Urban Imagination Center, and the Effron Center for the Study of America at Princeton University, and the University of Tokyo’s Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies and the Department of Urban Engineering and aims to analyze policing as a component of democracy in both Japan and the United States in order to consider new approaches to public security, safety and crime prevention that minimize the use of force in everyday life.
The collaboration has thrived despite pandemic interruptions. University of Tokyo students and faculty were scheduled to kick-off the project in New Jersey in March 2020, and a Princeton delegation — including undergraduate students — planned to travel to Tokyo for the Summer Olympics. When governments and educational institutions cancelled all travel, researchers widened the scope of the project to include issues of policing and security more broadly, examined through transnational perspectives. The University of Tokyo team members held seminars on issues related to security and public space for graduate students. Meanwhile, Princeton team members co-taught “Policing and Militarization Today,” a course that draws heavily upon anthropological methods and theory and provides a cross-cultural comparative analysis, during the spring 2021 and spring 2023 semesters.
This March, faculty members from the University of Tokyo conducted three workshops on data visualization at Princeton for students enrolled in the “Policing and Militarization Today” course. Hidenori Watanave, professor in Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, provided an overview of a digital archive of disasters, from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami to the 2023 Türkiye-Syria earthquake. His students also shared their data visualization projects, such as digital archives from the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway and virtual peace education efforts that draw on the collective memories of survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. All of these projects used the Re:Earth platform developed by Watanave’s former students.
Following, Kimihiro Hino, associate professor in the Department of Urban Engineering, led a session on analog data visualization. Participants used analog materials — large maps and markers — to brainstorm, understand data and be creative. Finally, Yasuaki Kakehi, professor in Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, spoke about data physicalization — representations of data that can be touched, felt, or held, and improve data understanding and engagement.
This summer, selected Princeton students will travel to Tokyo to present their own projects on topics of policing and security using the platforms and methods introduced in the workshop series. They will also travel to Hiroshima to view a data visualization exhibit organized by the University of Tokyo faculty. Princeton faculty and staff also hope to observe and explore policing, security and surveillance in Japan through interviews with law enforcement officers in Japan.
“Exchanges like this are useful for undergraduates because they expose them to students and professors from abroad who are grappling with similar social problems,” said Laurence Ralph, professor of anthropology. Ralph, along with Aisha Beliso-De Jesús, professor of American studies and director of the Effron Center, Ryo Morimoto, assistant professor of anthropology, and Marshall Brown, associate professor of School of Architecture and director of the Princeton Urban Imagination Center, are the core members of the “Policing, Public Space and Democracy” project. “It also allows them to see how different governments take different approaches to the problem of public safety. We hope that this experience will help students bring fresh perspectives to the study of communities they care about,” he said.