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Member Highlight: Masayuki Kanai

Masayuki Kanai

Professor of Sociology at Senshu University, Japan

Co-Vice President of Professional Affairs of ISQOLS

1. First, list your current professional title. Second, describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies. Feel free to describe this in detail.

My current position is Professor of Sociology at Senshu University, Japan. I also serve for several academic communities as Co-Vice President of Professional Affairs of ISQOLS, a board member of ISA (International Sociological Association) RC55 on Social Indicators, and Secretary-Treasurer of ISA RC45 on Rational Choice among others.

     Since political philosophy was my starting interest, I studied social choice theory for my MA thesis. Amartia K. Sen’s formal analyses on the conditions of social collision and conciliation of individual wills in liberal democracies induced my methodological preference to formal and empirical social sciences. Thus, I have engaged in mathematical sociology in my academic career, while specific topics have shifted from evolution of cooperation, social capital, through subjective wellbeing at the moment.

     My current project is a comparative study on social mechanisms of subjective wellbeing in Asian societies. This is, in fact, an international collaboration between over 90 social scientists from 25 universities/institutes in 8 Asian countries, namely Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. This collaboration named “International Consortium for Social Well-Being Studies (ICSWB)” started in 2014 under the leadership of Prof. Hiroo Harada at Senshu University.

     Subsidized by Japanese Ministry of Education and other funding sources, ICSWB has conducted a cross-national quantitative survey on wellbeing entitled “Social Well-Being Survey in Asia (SoWSA)” in these countries during 2015-17 and now preparing for a cross-national qualitative interviews focusing on the relation between life events, social capital, and subjective wellbeing to the respondents of SoWSA in these countries for mixed-methods analyses.

     The instruments of SoWSA include three types of subjective wellbeing measures (subjective happiness, overall life satisfaction, and Cantril ladder), perceived unfairness and inequality, social capital measures, and a variety of demographic variables. Sample sizes of SoWSA range from 1,126 to 11,786, and survey mode was online in East Asia and face-to-face in Southeast Asia.

     SoWSA East Asian dataset was published for secondary analyses at Korea Social Science Data Archive (KOSSDA) in June 2019, and Southeast Asian dataset is to be published there by spring 2020. Outcomes of SoWSA have been published in several reviewed journals such as Senshu Social Well-being Review and are to be published as a two-volume book from Springer in 2020.

2.  What initially attracted you to the field of quality-of-life studies?

Truth to tell, I was initially involved in the project by Prof. Harada’s enthusiastic invitation. As time went on, however, the topic itself attracted me. My original interest in normative social philosophy might be one reason. But the most important reason would be that quality-of-life or wellbeing study addresses the core research question of sociology that how individuals and society interact with each other. Though subjective wellbeing is defined and measured on an individual basis, its drivers and even subjective wellbeing itself (definitions of happiness) are known to be affected by various cultural and institutional settings of societies. Subjective wellbeing could be a viewfinder to see how the society is and how societies could be.

3. What are some areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future QoL researchers?

Accumulation of reliable individual-basis datasets is essential for QoL studies to clarify social mechanisms of wellbeing. Though the community already has valued quantitative datasets such as World Values Survey, International Social Survey Programme, and AsiaBarometer, repeating such large-scale surveys in various regions and societies would help increase our knowledge on the dynamic interaction between individuals and society. Collecting and archiving cross-nationally comparable qualitative data such as interviews and narratives in different societies would also be crucial for the future of QoL studies.

4. How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of QoL studies?

I joined ISQOLS at the 15th conference in Innsbruck, 2017. Warm and open atmosphere of the conference and its participants impressed me with blue sky of the highland city. The 2018 conference in Hong Kong, where Prof. Harada and I organized two symposia delivering the findings of ICSWB, also helped enhance my network in the field. I think one of the advantages of ISQOLS is its organizational skill for featuring its members by numerous awards and endowment tracks at the conferences, as well as by small communications like this Member Spotlight.

5. Feel free to include any other important comments or things you'd like to share with the ISQOLS community.

ICSWB always welcomes those who are interested in cross-cultural empirical studies on wellbeing from not only Asia but also across the globe.


Masayuki Kanai can be reached via email at: mkanai@senshu-u.jp


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