Found in Translation In Japan on a Fulbright, a scholar uncovers opportunities to build awareness of U.S. foreign policy law. With his expertise in foreign relations law and fluency in Japanese, Ryan Scoville was uncommonly qualified for the work he did in Tokyo last semester illuminating an aspect of international relations he believes deserves more attention.
Hosted by Sophia University, a Jesuit research university in Tokyo, Scoville spent the four-month grant period interviewing people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, think tanks, universities and international law firms. He also collected Japaneselanguage publications on U.S. foreign relations law at the National Diet Library, Japan’s equivalent of the Library of Congress, and university law libraries. His conclusions? “Formal programs of study and training on U.S. foreign relations law are essentially nonexistent in Japanese academia and within the government,” says Scoville. He found just a handful of academics writing on the subject, contributing to a tradition of scholarship on U.S. foreign relations law in Japan dating to at least the 1930s. But he did find individuals carving out deep pockets of U.S. foreign relations law knowledge on a “need-to-know basis,” including officials at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is mired in bilateral trade negotiations with the Trump administration.
Hosted by Sophia University, a Jesuit research university in Tokyo, Scoville spent the fourmonth grant period interviewing people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, think tanks, universities and international law firms.
Associate Professor, Law
The associate professor of law received a Fulbright grant to further his interest in how foreign governments, legal scholars and other specialists, particularly those in Japan, understand U.S. foreign relations law. That body of law “involves everything from parts of the Constitution that pertain to foreign policy to statutes such as the War Powers Resolution,” says Scoville. If foreign officials view aspects of the law differently than we do, “there can be confusion or conflicting expectations, which can operate as a hindrance on U.S. relations with allies and countries that are not so friendly.”
Seeing opportunities in the knowledge gaps he discovered, Scoville aims to facilitate more interaction between U.S. academics specializing in foreign relations law and overseas scholars and officials. And with a rising profile in the field, including a role as a managing editor for AJIL Unbound, the online companion to the American Journal of International Law, Scoville is in a good position to build on his Fulbright experience with more networking and plans for hosting future academic gatherings on the subject. MARY REARDON
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