International Faculty Series: Taku Suzuki

Written by Mia Miller and Taku Suzuki

Here at Denison, our faculty have a wide range of lived experiences and perspectives. We’d love to highlight this by introducing our new series of International Faculty features!

Meet Taku Suzuki. Dr. Suzuki is a Professor of International Studies, East Asian Studies and Global Health. He earned a B.A. in International Studies from Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan, and a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Minnesota. When asked what he’d like to share with students, this is what he had to say: 
I am from Yokohama, Japan. My first visit to the continental US was a short-term study abroad program during Sophomore year at my Japanese university. I studied for about three weeks at Hope College, a small liberal arts college in Michigan similar to Denison. Then I studied for one year at the University of California at Santa Barbara for one year, through an exchange student program. I remember how difficult it was to be a student with limited English skills — too many embarrassing situations to recall! — at these schools. But I also remember how exciting and confidence-building it was to accomplish mundane things on and off campus, like getting driver’s license or opening a bank account. As I have many international students in my classes or among my advisees, I try to remember these mixed feelings I felt during the early years of studying and living in the US.

My ethnographic fieldwork in 2021-22 in Japan during which I worked with many Turkish Kurd asylum seekers. I am with a community leader and Japan’s only Kurdish restaurant owner, along with an Iraqi Kurd musician, Turkish journalist, and a Japanese supporter of the Kurdish community in Saitama Prefecture.

As an anthropologist, I conducted ethnographic field research in Bolivia, Okinawa/Japan, and the Western Pacific (Mariana Islands), as well as the United States. As challenging as it is to prepare and execute the research projects, and publish the articles and books based on the findings, the ethnographic research has given me an “excuse” to meet and interview people (such as Okinawan-Bolivian farmers in eastern Bolivia, Chamorro war survivors in Tinian Island, Turkish Kurd asylum seekers in Kawaguchi near Tokyo, or Bhutanese refugees in Columbus, Ohio), whom I would have never had a chance to encounter otherwise. I cherish all the relationships I have built with these research experiences.

I believe my study abroad and field research experiences have helped me remain humble and understanding of other people’s complex past and present lives. Your present life is never what you have intended it to be, and your future will not be what you now imagine to be. It is sometimes difficult, especially when you are young, to accept that your life is utterly unpredictable and your well-conceived plan for the future is likely to have to change. But I try to communicate the fundamental uncertainty of our lives with my students as much as possible, and encourage them to not just accept, but embrace it.”