Postdoctoral Fellows

The Reischauer Institute Postdoctoral Fellowships in Japanese Studies provide recent graduates with the opportunity to continue their doctoral research at Harvard and produce publishable work from their dissertations. The fellows participate in the Japanese studies community at Harvard, work with faculty and students, and present their research in the Japan Forum lecture series at some point during their stay.

The RIJS Postdoctoral Fellows for the 2020-21 academic year are as follows:

THOMAS GAUBATZ (Ph.D. Japanese Literature, Columbia University, 2016)

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Dr. Thomas Gaubatz is a scholar of early modern Japanese literature and cultural history. His research focuses on narrative fiction from the 17th to 19th century, with additional interests in urban history, representations of urban space, and woodblock print culture. He received his PhD in 2016 from Columbia University, and is currently an assistant professor at Northwestern University.

Dr. Gaubatz’s book manuscript, titled Writing Urban Identity in Early Modern Japan, explores how new understandings of urban space, community, and identity were rendered into text and narrative between the late 17th and early 19th century. Centered on literary images of the “townsman” or “urban commoner” (chōnin), this book traces the ways in which the cultural identities associated with townsman status, and the emergent forms of community, spatiality, and social practice that they structured, were predicated on the circulation of printed texts and articulated in narrative form, which could both transgress and reinscribe social boundaries. By drawing interdisciplinary connections between literature, the history of the city, and comparative urban theory, this book aims to transform our understanding of the places, forms, and functions of narrative fiction within the status-based social imaginary of Edo-period Japan.

During his year at the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Gaubatz will be expanding his manuscript and preparing it for publication. He is also developing a series of related article-length projects, including an essay on the socio-spatial structures of the city of Edo and a journal article on the mediation of status-based discourses of urban masculinity in the literature of the 18th-century Edo prostitution quarters.


MICHAELA KELLY (Ph.D. Cultural Anthropology, University of Tokyo, 2016)


Dr. Michaela Kelly is a cultural anthropologist specializing in contemporary Japanese reproduction and family studies. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tokyo in 2016. Subsequently, Dr. Kelly worked as an Andrew Mellon Digital Humanities and CLIR postdoctoral scholar and then as a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Lafayette College.

Her dissertation, Contemporary Motherhood in Northern Japan: An Ethnography Applying Social Capital and Network Theories, reevaluates the functionality and import of Bourdieu’s theories of capital in light of the everyday practices of women raising children in contemporary Japan. Based on three years of in-depth fieldwork and archival research, Dr. Kelly’s dissertation work offers a new understanding of how women make and manipulate social capital in the process of childrearing, a particularly salient issue given the national policy focus on resource allocation to families in low-fertility Japan.

Her second book project, currently under revision, is tentatively titled Patriotic Pedagogy: How Japanese Poetry Game Cards Taught a War Generation and reflects archival and cataloguing work done while a Mellon/CLIR postdoctoral scholar at Lafayette College. Using 22 sets of karuta game card sets produced in the 1930s and 1940s, the book offers a history of karuta as a pedagogical tool in the early childhood setting and then a visual and textual analysis of the cards themselves. This project, like the dissertation project, is motivated by Dr. Kelly’s interest in exploring and better understanding the nexus of individual agency and social pressures and expectations.

Given the year at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Dr. Kelly will be working on a series of articles that further explore the Japan’s 20th and 21st century fertility policies and contextualize these within the framework of Foucault’s biopower. Once this preliminary work has been completed, she will be working on an article that considers the adaptive and reproductive power of women’s social networks.


DANIELE LAURO (Ph.D. Japanese History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2019)

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Dr. Daniele Lauro received his Ph.D. from the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019. He is a specialist in early modern Japanese history, with particular interests in Tokugawa political institutions, ritual studies, and material culture.

His dissertation, Meanings and Functions of Rituals in the Politics of the Tokugawa Shogunate: A Study of the 1843 Shogunal Pilgrimage to Nikkō (Nikkō shasan), investigates the ways in which Tokugawa shoguns adopted, created, and manipulated rituals to sanction their hegemonic position, perpetuate their authority, and preserve social order. In particular, Dr. Lauro’s dissertation considers the ritual practice known as Nikkō shasan, that is the pilgrimage performed by certain Tokugawa shoguns from the seat of the government, Edo, to Nikkō, a mountainous locality where the regime’s founder, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was venerated and enshrined in a majestic mausoleum. By analyzing the various phases of the pilgrimage – from its formal announcement to its execution and aftermath – Dr. Lauro’s dissertation shows that Tokugawa chieftains traveled to Nikkō in hopes of showcasing their military power, reaffirming the continuity and legitimacy of the shogunal line, renewing alliances with their retainers, emphasizing the shogunate’s superiority over the imperial institution, and announcing major shifts in governance.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Lauro will be revising his dissertation, with the goal of transforming it into a manuscript for publication. He will also conduct preliminary research for an article investigating written and visual documents - including the Tokugawa Reitenroku (Records of Tokugawa Ceremonies and Rituals, 1881), the Tokugawa Seiseiroku (Record of the Prosperous Ages of the Tokugawa, 1889), and the Chiyoda no omote (Chiyoda Inner Palace, 1897) – which celebrate Tokugawa ritual culture. These works were produced after the fall of the shogunal regime with varying degrees of support by the Meiji government and are symptomatic of the wave of “Tokugawa nostalgia” that hit Japan between 1880s and 1890s.


MATTIAS VAN OMMEN (Ph.D. Cultural Anthropology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2020)

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Dr. Mattias van Ommen is a scholar who specializes in the cultural anthropology of contemporary Japanese society, with a particular focus on digital cultures, play, youth studies, and gender. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2020, and holds a B.A. in Japanese Studies from Leiden University.

His dissertation, Intimate Fantasies: an Ethnography of Online Video Gamers in Contemporary Japan, explores how Japanese youth have become increasingly invested in digital, online fantasy worlds. His ethnographic data illustrates that while video game players appreciate fantasy content as separate from offline institutions, they still use fantasy game worlds to pursue human connections which gradually bleed into actual-world relationships. The dissertation thus demonstrates that while its players are often viewed as socially withdrawn, games can be used to connect with members of society with whom players would not otherwise interact. Through his research, Dr. van Ommen seeks to push the debate surrounding how Japanese youth spend their time online—recently intensified due to COVID-19 and increased time spent at home—to include more qualitative and holistic approaches.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. van Ommen will work on transforming his dissertation into a publishable book manuscript. Additionally, he will write a number of related research articles, such as a study that considers the potential of digital fantasy worlds to transcend national-cultural barriers. He will also conduct preliminary research on follow-up research projects, specifically on the nascent and growing industries of competitive video games (“esports”) and independent video games (“indie games”) in Japan.