I am a historian and the Tanaka Junior Research Fellow in Japanese Studies at Pembroke. Even as a child, I was curious to know about different cultures and the people who are part of them. Growing up, I went to study and live in various cities and countries – from Australia, South Korea, and Leeds to suburban Thailand and Japan’s aging northern countryside. It was probably natural that such international experience and curiosity carried over into an intellectual penchant for the history of peoples and ideas – particularly those that transcend the nation-state and national boundaries. I pursued this academic passion by studying a DPhil in History at the University of Oxford as a Swire scholar, following an MSc in Modern Japanese Studies at Oxford as an Oxford Kobe scholar (both at St Antony’s College).
My current book project focuses on an emergent current of socio-cultural and intellectual phenomena in modern transnational Japan between the 1860s and the 1920s. This topic has been absent in existing scholarship, despite its popularity and wide-reaching influence at the time. I argue that the cooperative work of a defeated samurai of Japan’s civil war and his Japanese comrades, along with their Russian, American, British, and Korean allies, led to the emergence of a new conception of universal human progress outside of state imperial encounters. From educators to farmers, people of diverse professions stood in firm opposition to the ideological paradigm of Western modernity endorsed by the Japanese (and many other) state(s), and challenged hierarchies that underpinned this ideology in their own ways. While the discourse of Western modernity has underpinned many important historical findings, it has simultaneously limited historians from thinking outside the box. In my research and teaching, I encourage students and scholars to critically reassess the dominant mode of modern history writing – the narratives, methods, and sources which have been closely tied to the nation-state and the associated discourse of Western modernity.
Tutorial organiser for Further Subject: Modern Japan