My research and teaching—which has been recognized by the Fulbright Program, the Japan Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities—is underpinned by a fairly straightforward question: what is the relationship between storytelling and identity, or: in what way is fiction an object of the humanities—one that tells us who we were, who we are, and who we might become? My intellectual home is at the intersection of modern Japanese literature, African American literature, and comparative literature. I am particularly interested in studies of the “Black Pacific,” which consider the ebb and flow of black people, thought, and culture throughout the Pacific.
My first monograph is Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature (University of Michigan Press, 2020). My previous research—which includes an article on Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo’s writing of Afro-Japanese existentialism, an essay on the reception history of Little Black Sambo in Japan, and an edited volume entitled Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and Afro-Japanese Cultural Exchange—has investigated the place of fiction in the construction of racial thinking in postwar and contemporary Japan. I have also written several pieces in response to the putative crisis in the humanities, including a forthcoming entry for the postwar Japanese fiction volume of the MLA Options for Teaching series, the central article for a forum issue of the History of Humanities journal entitled “A Brief History of the Inhumanities,” and a piece for ASAP Journal entitled ““Six Ways to Stand with the Work of Art in the Age of Instagrammatical Reproduction: Tanaka Tatsuya and the Beautiful Plentitude of the Reimagination.”
I am currently working on two book projects. The first is The Futurist Turn: Reimagining the Unwelfare State in Intertemporal Japan. The Futurist Turn reads works of contemporary Japanese literature, art, anime, and culture in both their historical and futuristic contexts. The second is The Black Pacific: A Poetic History. The Black Pacific considers the development of modern Japanese literature not as the body of fiction produced by an island nation, but as a body of fiction developed on a central port in a transpacific dialogue on racial existence. The Black Pacific asks: how might the urge to explore the Pacific and the desire to write Japanese or black poetry be one in the same?
I should also note that my scholarship is informed by my creative writing. My creative nonfiction, which was recently recognized with a Pushcart Prize nomination, tries to articulate the pleasures and pains of black life.
Selected Video Presentations
Courses Offered (subject to change)
- CLT 200: When War Should End (Spring 2018)
- JPN 229: Japanese Calligraphy and Graphology (Fall 2019)
- JPN 230: Poetry and Japanese Calligraphy (Fall 2018)
- JPN 245: Japan and the Future (Fall 2019)
- JPN 254: Rises & Falls of Modern Japanese Literature (Fall 2018)
- JPN 258: Japanese Science Fiction in Global Perspective (Fall 2017)
- JPN 293: Life & Anime (Spring 2019)
- Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar, Japanese Literature (University of Michigan Press, 2020).
- “On Literature and the Unimaginable: Tanaka Minoru’s Tertiary Relativity and the Object of Post-postmodern Literary Studies”, The Journal of Japanese Studies, Volume 49, Issue 2 (2023, forthcoming).
- "Six Ways to Stand with the Work of Art in the Age of Instagrammatical Reproduction: Tanaka Tatsuya and the Beautiful Plentitude of the Reimagination", ASAP Journal, Volume 5, Issue 3 (2020).
- "A Brief History of the Inhumanities" Special forum issue: History of the InhumanitiesHistory of Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 1 (2019).
- "The Past Tense and the Future Perfect: The Postmodern Play of Watanabe Shin’ichirō and the Coming Community" The Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 51, Issue 3 (2018).
- "In the Beginning: Blackness and the 1960s Creative Nonfiction of Ōe Kenzaburō", positions:asia critique, Volume 25, Issue 2 (2017).
- “Between Narratophilia and Aphasia: Silent Desire and the Dialogic Narration of Self in Ishikawa Jun’s, ‘The Legend of Gold’ East Asia Forum (Fall 2010).
- Re-thinking the Asianist: Asian Studies after Black Lives Matter Co-edited with Keisha Brown and Marvin Sterling Association for Asian Studies, Asia Shorts (in progress).
- Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production, co-edited with Cornyetz, Nina, Lexington Books, New Studies in Modern Japan (2015).
Guest Edited Journal Issues
- “The Futurist Turn” College Literature, Volume 48, Issue 3 (2021) Introduction: “Against Afuturistic Reading”.
- “The Black Pacific”, Japan Forum (in progress), Introduction: “Two Theses on the Black Pacific”.
Contributions to Edited Volumes
- “The Tragedy before the Blood Commons: Araki Tetsurō, the Crisis in the Humanity, and Animated Education”, Teaching Postwar Japanese Fiction, ed. Bates, Alex, MLA Options for Teaching Series (forthcoming).
- “The Sun Never Sets on Little Black Sambo: The Cultural Hermeneutics of Little Black Sambo—A Transoceanic Approach”, The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in East Asian Empire, eds., Hanscomb, Chris and Washburn, Dennis, University of Hawaii Press (2016).
- The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in East Asian Empire, eds. Hanscomb, Chris and Washburn, Dennis University of Hawaii Press (2016).
- Introduction” Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production, co-edited with Cornyetz, Nina Lexington Books, New Studies in Modern Japan (2015).
- “In the Beginning: Blackness and the 1960s Creative Nonfiction of Ōe Kenzaburō” Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production, co-edited with Cornyetz, Nina, Lexington Books, New Studies in Modern Japan (2015).
- “Extirpation is Not Possible: The Black Pacific and Possible Futures for Black Studies”, InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture (Forthcoming).
- “An Immodest Proposal: In Thanks for Responses to the Inhumanities”, Special forum issue: History of the Inhumanities History of Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 1 (2019).
Translations of Japanese Literacy Theory and Criticism
- Tanaka, Minoru, “Three Keys to Unlocking the ‘Absurdity of Reading’—Text, the Shadow of the Original Sentence, Self-Destruction, and the Self-Expression of the Narrator”, PMLA, peer-review complete, accepted for review by editorial board.
- Ara, Masahito, “Second Youth,” co-translated and annotated with Yamazaki, Junko Politics and Literature Debate: Postwar Japanese Criticism 1945-1952, Burdaghs, Michael, Sakakibara, Richi, Toeda, Hirokazu, and Ueda, Atsuko, Lexington Books (2017).
- Hirano, Ken, “An Antithesis,” co-translated and annotated with Yamazaki, Junko et. al, Politics and Literature Debate: Postwar Japanese Criticism 1945-1952, Lexington Books (2017).
Honors and Activities
- Pushcart Prize nomination (2020)
- National Endowment for Humanities Connection Grant (2020)
- University of Rochester Humanities Project (2018)
- Japan Foundation Japan Studies Fellowship (2017)
- Fulbright Scholar Fellowship - Japan (2016-2017)
- National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions Grant (2016)
- University of California Humanities Research Institute Presidential Fellowship (2016)
- University of California Consortium for Black Studies Research Grant (2016)
- St. Olaf College Virginia Dekker Research Course Release (Declined) (2015)
- GLCA Fund for the Study of Japan Grant (2013)
- St. Olaf College Academic Innovation Grant - Life and Anime (2013)
- St. Olaf College Academic Innovation Grant - Beginning Japanese (2013)
- Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities Seed Grant (2013)
- St. Olaf College Faculty Development Grant (2013)
- Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Council of Conferences, New Voices in Asian Studies Panel (2013)
- Association for Asian Studies Mid-Atlantic Region Annual Conference, Best Graduate Student Paper (2012)
- Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies Doctoral Fellow (2011-2012)
- Ford Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (Honorable Mention) (2011)
- Princeton Prize for Outstanding Doctoral Research (Runner-Up) (2010)
- Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Fellow (Japan) (2009-2010)
- Princeton University Hyde Fellowship (Japan) (2009-2010)