[Report]5th Academic Frontier Lecture Series 2024

On May 10, 2024, Prof. Naoki Sakai, Distinguished Professor at Cornell University and Tokyo College Professor, delivered a lecture titled “Talking to ‘Aliens’ (Gaijin): Scenes of Transnationality and the Politics of Cross-Language.”

At the beginning of the lecture, Prof. Sakai presented the idea of “transnationality,” which is an opposing concept to “internationality.” In contemporary international society, it is taken for granted to distinguish between “citizens” and “foreigners.” But according to Prof. Sakai’s definition, transnationality is the idea of regarding both “citizens” and “foreigners” as “aliens.” In other words, it is an attitude that tries to overcome discrimination based on nationality and make new communities which are not built on nationality.

Why is the distinction between “citizens” and “foreigners” so important in the modern global system? Prof. Sakai, referring to Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Community,” explained the mechanism of nation-state. A nation is an imaginary community based on people’s sense of belonging. People who are originally “aliens” or “foreigners” share a sense of belonging to the community, then become the nation and construct a nation-state. For creating national identity, the most effective device is the distinction between “citizens” and “foreigners.”

The emergence of internationality goes back to Europe in the 17th century. When sovereign states marked their boundaries, the “global world” appeared in Europe for the first time. It expanded to the non-European world in the 19th century and forced those countries to modernize (i.e., internationalize).


Report by NIIMOTO Konomi (EAA Research Assistant)