Postdoctoral Fellows

MICHAEL ABELE (Ph.D. Premodern Japanese History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2018)

Dr. Michael Abele received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2018, with a focus on early modern and modern Japanese history. During his dissertation research, he spent two years as a visiting researcher at Osaka City University from July 2014 to June 2016.

His dissertation “Peasants, Skinners, and Dead Cattle: The Transformation of Rural Society in Western Japan, 1600-1890,” traces the development of capitalism in Japan by analyzing changes in property rights from the beginning of the Tokugawa period to the late nineteenth century. Dr. Abele specifically focuses on the right of early modern kawata (outcaste) communities to livestock carcasses, and how this transformed from a status-based property right to one based on private ownership and transferability by the mid-nineteenth century. He demonstrates how outcastes were part of a broader trend by which the old status-based form of property and social organization was dismantled from below, leading to the development of capitalist notions of private property before the Meiji period.

While at the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Abele will continue research on his dissertation topic in preparation for its publication an academic manuscript. He will also begin work on a second project that looks at the experience of rural buraku people who migrated to urban areas in the early twentieth century.

mabele@fas.harvard.edu 

JULIA ALEKSEYEVA (Ph.D. Comparative Literature, Harvard University, 2017)

Dr. Julia Alekseyeva received her Ph.D. in 2017 from Harvard University’s Department of Comparative Literature, with a secondary field in Film and Visual Studies. She researches the interactions between global media and radical leftist politics. Alongside a focus on Japanese film, comics, and other media, her comparatist work also delves into the theoretical, artistic, and film historical traditions of France and the former Soviet Union. Dr. Alekseyeva has spent the last two years teaching Cinema Studies at Brooklyn College and the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.

Dr. Alekseyeva’s dissertation, “Kino-Eye, Kino-Bayonet: The Avant-Garde Documentary in Japan, France, and the USSR,” explores political and experimental filmmaking from the Soviet 1920s to the French and Japanese 1960s. Specifically, this project argues that not all leftist avant-garde documentaries were made alike: while some practices sought to simply transmit a political message, other techniques emphasized human perception, freedom, and affect. This trajectory continued to France and Japan in the 1960s: in France, the Dziga Vertov Group attempted to use cinema as a tool for political and personal transformation; in Japan, filmmakers such as Matsumoto Toshio and Hani Susumu tried to emancipate and radicalize the viewer through a series of disruptive and playful aesthetic techniques. This dissertation considers a transnational political avant-garde that highlights a politics of emancipation rather than transmission, and is defined by play, affect, and formalist estrangement.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Alekseyeva is revising her dissertation project into her first academic monograph, tentatively titled “Cinema-Truth and its Discontents: Critiques of Documentary in the Japanese and French 1960s.” She is also gathering materials for an edited collection on transnational activist media in the 1960s, and is working on several articles on Japanese film and media history.

Along with her academic research and teaching, Dr. Alekseyeva is also an author-illustrator, whose award-winning non-fiction graphic novel, Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution, was published in 2017. She has published several articles on global film and media history, in both written and graphic narrative format, in The Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, the Nib, Cine-Files, Jewish Currents, and The Paper Brigade.

aleksey@fas.harvard.edu

ROBERT HEGWOOD (Ph.D. Modern Japanese History, University of Pennsylvania, 2018)

Dr. Robert A. Hegwood received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 with a focus on Japanese emigration, trade relations, and cultural diplomacy between the 1870s and 1960s. He conducted extensive research in U.S. archives and in Japan as a visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo.

His dissertation, “Transnational Foundations for Growth: Migrant Brokers and Japan’s Rise as a World Power, 1868-1964” explored the role of Japanese immigrants to the United States as intermediaries in U.S.-Japan commercial and cultural relations. This study analyzes the interdependence between migrant mobility, the mobility of goods, and promotion of images of Japan across the Pacific. As Japanese emigrated to and settled in the US, they formed transnational social networks that served as a social foundation for Japanese commerce and diplomacy in the US. His research uses the physical spaces of encounter—trade fairs, ethnic enclaves, and ocean liners—as sites to explore efforts by Japanese trade officials and their migrant intermediaries to shape Japan’s image in the eyes of Euro-Americans consumers. Ultimately, he contends, the history of transpacific migration is fundamental to understanding Japan’s role in the modern world.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Hegwood will continue research on his dissertation in preparation for its publication as a monograph. He will also be researching and writing two articles. The first will explore the place of the Japanese diaspora in the postwar reconstruction of Japan’s global trade networks. The second will examine the diasporic support for the Japan Pavilion at the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.

rhegwood@fas.harvard.edu

LISA HOFMANN-KURODA (Ph.D. Modern Japanese Literature, University of California, Berkeley, 2018)

Dr. Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda is a scholar of modern Japanese and Japanese diasporic literature from the late nineteenth century to the present, with attendant interests in the history of science, queer theory, transnationalism, and critical race theory. She received her Ph.D. in 2018 from the University of California, Berkeley, and conducted archival research at Waseda University from 2017 to 2018 with the support of a grant from the Japan Foundation.

Her dissertation, “The Tree of Life: The Politics of Kinship in Meiji Japan (1870-1915)” focuses on the work of transnational Japanese literary writers around the turn of the twentieth century. In a historical moment in which the rhetorical conflation of family and nationhood were used to justify a Japanese imperial project rooted in ethnic nationalism, it asks how the peripatetic and specifically transnational careers of Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) and Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) informed their critiques of the family system. It shows how both Soseki and Hearn drew upon a rich archive of Victorian scientific writing—including evolutionary theory and eugenics, colonial anthropology, ethnography, and composite photography—in order to decouple the family/nation paradigm within their work, as well as to imagine models of kinship beyond the reproductive demands of the Japanese state.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Hofmann-Kuroda will revise her manuscript for publication as a book, as well as prepare an article for publication on the rhetoric of blood in Natsume Soseki's Kokoro. She looks forward to expanding the historical scope of her current project into the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, asking how the current neoliberal paradigm of Shinzo Abe's regime and its emphasis on "family values" has led to various kinds of speculative kin-making in the work of contemporary Japanese writers such as Nakajima Kyoko and Maki Kashimada, among others.

lhkuroda@fas.harvard.edu

MARI ISHIDA (Ph.D. Modern Japanese Literature, University of California, Los Angeles, 2016)

Dr. Mari Ishida received her Ph.D. in 2016 from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a focus on modern Japanese literature and culture. She taught as an assistant adjunct professor at UCLA from Fall 2016 to Spring 2018. During her dissertation research, she spent a year as a special research student at the Graduate School of Language and Society, Hitotsubashi University.

Dr. Ishida’s research explores a relationship between literature and imperialism. Her dissertation, titled “Imperial Literature: Languages, Bodies, and Others in the Japanese Empire,” examines the contradictory function of literature in the (re)production of the ideological worldview of the Japanese multi-ethnic empire from the 1920s to the early 1940s, by analyzing literary works on the Japanese empire by various authors writing in Japanese. It elucidates the relations among literary practice and institution, linguistic imperialism, mechanisms of colonial violence and power, and the process of racialization, thereby proposing a decolonial practice of reading.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Ishida will revise and expand her manuscript for publication as a book. She will continue to investigate the mechanisms of biopolitical racialization operated in imperial literature, while conducting research on the discourses on memories of war and the empire and those on literature during the U.S.-led Allied Occupation of Japan.

mishida@fas.harvard.edu

ANNA SKARPELIS (Ph.D. Sociology, New York University, 2018)

Dr. Anna K.M. Skarpelis is a historical comparative sociologist specializing in race, migration and sociological theory. Her work centers on state-led ethnoracial classification and naturalization practices in mono-ethnic racial supremacies, specifically twentieth-century Germany and Japan. Her research uses mixed methods and draws on multilingual colonial and wartime archives to understand the construction of racialized difference and assimilation in periods of rapid regime transition, forced migration, and geopolitical turmoil. Her dissertation has been supported by the Japan Foundation, the Honjo Foundation, and numerous institutional grants from New York University.

Her primary research interests center around theories of race and ethnicity, historical comparative epistemology, and translation as it impacts cultural sociology, specifically analyses of meaning-making. She is more broadly interested in immigration, sociological theory, political sociology and the history of science. Prior to joining NYU, Dr. Skarpelis worked for four years with Wolfgang Streeck as a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

Her other projects apply quantitative and computational methods to the study of how sociologists use the concept of culture (with Paul DiMaggio) and investigate forms of welfare state racialization cross-sectionally and longitudinally.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Skarpelis will be working with Japan Digital Scholarship Librarian Katherine Matsuura on various digital projects relating to Japan. She will also begin research on a second project that uses computational methods to create an original dataset on racialization within twentieth-century Japanese welfare state development.

askarpelis@fas.harvard.edu