Postdoctoral Fellows

MATTHIEU FELT (Ph.D. Premodern Japanese Literature, Columbia University, 2017)

Dr. Matthieu Felt received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2017 with a focus on eighth-century Japanese literature. During dissertation research, he spent two years as a visiting researcher at Waseda University and one year as a visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo.

His dissertation "Rewriting the Past: Reception and Commentary of Nihon shoki, Japan's First Official History" traced the reception and transformation of Japanese mythology from the early-ninth to the early-twentieth century. The study highlights the fraught relationship between a written inscription and vernacular reading practices, the influence of new worldviews and ideologies on commentarial practice, and the intellectual acrobatics used to keep study of the classics relevant.

While at the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Felt will continue research on the issues discussed in his dissertation in preparation for its publication as an academic manuscript. He will also begin working on a second project that analyzes the resuscitation of classical Japanese literature as an academic field under the American occupation.


COLIN JONES (Ph.D. Japanese History, Columbia University, 2017)

Colin Jones is a historian of Japan from the nineteenth century to the present. He focuses on legal and intellectual history, the East Asian region, and international history. Colin received his PhD in History from Columbia University in 2017. While conducting research for his dissertation, he spent two years as a visiting scholar at Waseda University’s School of Political Science and Economics.


His dissertation, “Living Law in Japan: Social Jurisprudence from One Postwar to the Next,” explores the intersection of a global social turn in legal thought and a national effort to manage the dislocations of the market economy and a growing empire. It argues that in the wake of World War I, professional jurists in Japan reimagined the legal system as an instrument of social policy, and then traces how their efforts to realize this vision in Japan and North China gave rise to new legislation, legal practices, and frames for thinking about society, history, and gender that have endured into the present.


At the Reischauer Institute, he is revising his manuscript for publication. He is also concurrently at work on two articles: one that traces the interwar origins of theories of legal pluralism that became popular in China after the death of Mao Zedong, another that examines the uses of international law in Japan’s participation in the United Nations.



ADAM LYONS (Ph.D. Religion, Harvard University, 2017)

Dr. Adam Lyons received his Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard University in 2017. His dissertation focuses on prison chaplaincy in Japan from the late nineteenth century to the present day, and it is the result of more than two years of archival research and fieldwork inside the Japanese prison system. This project is the basis of the book manuscript Karma and Punishment: Prison Chaplaincy in Japan, which is being revised for publication. Several essays based on this research have already appeared in Japanese publications, including a selection featured in a collection published through Ryūkoku University.

Dr. Lyons’ research on prison chaplaincy traces the history of the Pure Land Buddhist practice of remonstrating with prisoners to elicit “change of heart” by analyzing the development of an elaborate body of chaplaincy doctrines in light of broader political currents in religion-state relations. The object of doctrinal admonitions has shifted over time: hidden Christians in the early 1870s, Marxists and other “thought criminals” in the prewar Shōwa period, and women in a Tokyo Jail sutra copying class in 2016. Throughout these changes, sect leaders have continuously sought to negotiate their social role by asserting their authority over the inner world of beliefs, conscience, and soteriological aspirations. In the prison system, religion has been subject to state management as a means of public benefit. Thus, chaplains have been expected to harmonize the private realm of conscience with the priorities of the public authorities so as to aid in the work of correctional rehabilitation. However, historical accounts and interviews with chaplains reveal that those tasked with this work frequently encounter mitigating circumstances and problems of suffering that require them to think and act beyond the bounds of the rigidly statist official theology. The heart of this research project is to explore the tensions between the official discourse and the actual experience and practice of the chaplaincy in order to see how negotiations between religion and state are reflected in the lives of people who are beholden to both state and sect authorities.

Dr. Lyons is also working on a project dealing with the history of the Japanese new religious movement Tenrikyō. This second project builds on archival research and fieldwork conducted with Tenrikyō churches during dissertation research. This work continues the focus on the relationship between doctrine and politics as seen from the perspective of individuals. Dr. Lyons will present preliminary papers at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion meeting in Washington in October and at a conference on New Religions in Asia at Boston University to be held in the spring of 2018.


RYO MORIMOTO (Ph.D. Anthropology, Brandeis University, 2016)

Dr. Ryo Morimoto received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Brandeis University in Spring 2016. Since 2011, he has been studying the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Accident (3.11) and has published articles on various topics such as anthropology and disaster, culture and sudden change, memory and material objects, and the selective remembrance of the nuclear in Japan. A recipient of the 2013-2014 Japan Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research, he conducted one year of fieldwork in Minami-sōma, Fukushima, exploring the relationship between the nuclear and the selective formation and preservation of memory. He focused on local residents’ struggle to remember and forget aspects of the TEPCO nuclear disaster in claiming citizenry rights to their land and property while also disavowing the status of a contaminated community. From 2013-2014, he was a visiting scholar of the Institute of Comparative Culture at Sophia University and the International Research Institute of Disaster Sciences at Tohoku University. At Brandeis, he received the University Instructorship Award for 2014-2015, for his course titled “Catastrophes across Cultures: The Anthropology of Disaster.” Since the June 2014, he has been Project Manager for the Japan Disasters Digital Archive (JDA) at the Reischauer Institute.

His doctoral dissertation is a study of macro processes at play in the lives of residents living with low-dose radiation exposure in costal Fukushima. He introduces the concept “nuclear alterity” in order to consider the social, cultural and techno-scientific distance that exists between the Japanese and the nuclear, which makes it difficult for the memory and history of the nuclear to subsist across generations. He is particularly interested in material mediations of producing and/or removing certain images of the nuclear and the trans-generational communication of nuclear waste as well as its potential mechanism.

During his time as a postdoctoral fellow at the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Morimoto plans to expand and prepare his dissertation for publication. In addition, he will begin a project for the Toyota Foundation (2015-2016) to publish a bilingual booklet in Minami-sōma that will inform and educate residents and tourists on the local histories of disasters in the region. In addition he plans to investigate U.S.-Japan techno-scientific collaborations to decommission, decontaminate, and manage nuclear waste, examining how emerging technologies could influence people’s imagination of the nuclear when the nuclear becomes further physically and cognitively distanced from the human being.


AMANDA ROBINSON (Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, 2017)

Dr. Amanda Robinson is a cultural anthropologist specializing in issues of social precarity, labor, and affect, with a focus on human-companion animal relationships as a source of sociality. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017. From 2012-2014, she conducted anthropological fieldwork in Tokyo, Japan, as an affiliated scholar at Tokyo University, with the support of a fellowship from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbukagakusho).

Her dissertation, “Animal Sociality: Healing and Affect in Japanese Animal Cafés,” is an ethnographic exploration of Japanese cat cafés and other animal cafés, using this business as a lens to explore how young people are engaging with new kinds of social support networks to meet their need for sociality in Japan today. The owners, employees, and customers of these businesses are all involved in actively constructing a new alternative space that offers a refuge to overstressed young people in which they can be soothed and socialized at the same time. This manuscript explores how the commodification of intimacy relates to issues of economic and social precarity among the Japanese generation born after the end of the economic boom period.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Robinson will revise her manuscript for publication as a book, as well as prepare a number of essays for publication on the human-animal relationship in the animal café. Furthermore, she intends to lay the groundwork for a new project exploring the work of Japanese life coaches and the commodification of human affective services in the light of changing forms of sociality in Japan.