Julia Adeney Thomas
History of Japan
Modern Political and Intellectual History
Nature and Environmental History
Historiography and Theory
M.A. and Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1984 & 1993
University of Oxford, St. Peter's College and the Oriental Institute, 1981-1983
A.B., Princeton University, magna cum laude, 1981
Research and Teaching Interests
Bringing critical theory to bear on questions of power in modern societies, Julia Adeney Thomas investigates concepts of nature in Japanese political ideology, the impact of the climate crisis on historiography, and photography as a political practice. Her book, Reconfiguring Modernity: Concepts of Nature in Japanese Political Ideology, received the John K. Fairbank Prize from the American Historical Association in 2002 and her essay on wartime memory in Japan, "Photography, National Identity, and the 'Cataract of Times:' Wartime Images and the Case of Japan" in the American Historical Review received the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians' Best Article of the Year Award in 1999. She brings her research interests into the classroom teaching courses that range from Neolithic Japan to politics and the environment, from comparative fascism to contemporary questions of photography's relationship with suffering.
Before joining the history faculty at Notre Dame, Julia taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Wisconsin, where she received tenure in 2001. She has also been a visiting scholar at the University of Bielefeld (Germany), the University of Bristol (U.K.), the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin, the Universität Heidelberg, and the University of Michigan as well as a member of the University of Wisconsin Humanities Institute,the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Many generous foundations and organizations have supported her research including the Mellon Foundation, the Japan Foundation, the NEH, Mombusho (Japanese Ministry of Education), the Social Science Research Council, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, and the ACLS.
- The Historian’s Task in the Age of the Anthropocene
- The Merciful Camera: Japan’s Humanitarian Photography and Nuclear Nightmares
- Ever So Real: The Civic Practice of Japanese Photography, 1940-60
Books and Edited Collections
- Guest Editor, Japanese Studies, special issue: Japan's Convergence with the West: How Similar Approaches to Nature Created Parallel Developments, Vol. 34, No. 3 (December 2014)
- Rethinking Historical Distance co-edited with Mark Salber Phillips and Barbara Caine (Palgrave/Macmillan Publishers, 2013)
- Japan at Nature’s Edge: The Environmental Context of a Global Power co-edited with Ian J. Miller and Brett L. Walker (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013)
- Kindai no saikochiku: Nihon seiji ideorogii ni okeru shizen no gainen, Japanese translation, Reconfiguring Modernity with a new preface: “Atarashii Busshitsu Shugi,” (The New Materialism), (Tokyo: Hosei University Press, 2008)
- Reconfiguring Modernity: Concepts of Nature in Japanese Political Ideology (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001)
Awards for Publications
- John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian History, American Historical Association, 2002 for Reconfiguring Modernity: Concepts of Nature in Japanese Political Ideology
- Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, Best Article of the Year Award, 1999, “Photography, National Identity, and the 'Cataract of Times:' Wartime Images and the Case of Japan." American Historical Review (December 1998).
ARTICLES AND BOOK CHAPTERS CONCERNING Critical Climate History, Environmental and Global History, Political Concepts of Nature
- 2015 - "Who is the 'We' Endangered by Climate Change?" in Fernando Vidal and Nélia Diaz, eds. Endangerment, Biodiversity and Culture, Routledge, Series in Environmental Humanities.
- 2014 - “History and Biology in the Anthropocene: Problems of Scale, Problems of Value,”American Historical Review, Roundtable: History Meets Biology, Vol. 119, No. 5 (December 2014), 1587-1607.
- 2014 - “Reclaiming Ground: Japan’s Great Convergence” Japanese Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3, special issue on Japan's Convergence with the West: How Similar Approaches to Nature Created Parallel Developments (December 2014)
- 2013 - “Using Japan to Think Globally: The Natural Subject of History and Its Hopes,” Japan at Nature’s Edge: The Environmental Context of a Global Power (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013) edited by Ian J. Miller, Julia Adeney Thomas, and Brett L. Walker
- 2012 - “Not Yet Far Enough,” American Historical Review, Forum on "Historiographical Turns in Critical Perspective." Vol. 117, No. 3 (June, 2012)
- 2011/2014 - (Portuguese Translation) “From Modernity with Freedom to Sustainability with Decency: Politicizing Passivity,” The Future of Environmental History: Needs and Opportunities, edited by Kimberly Coulter and Christof Mauch (Rachel Carson Center Perspectives, University of Munich: March 2011)
- 2011 - “Japan’s ‘Natural’ History as Resource for the Global Future,” The Environmental Histories of Europe and Japan, Oxford-Nagoya Environmental History Workshop, edited by Tsunetoshi Mizoguchi (University of Nagoya: January, 2011)
- 2010 - “The Exquisite Corpses of Nature and History: The Case of the Korean DMZ” in Chris Pearson, Peter Coates, and Tim Cole, eds, Militarized Landscapes: From Gettysburg to Salisbury Plain (London: Continuum, 2010)
- 2010 - "The Exquisite Corpses of Nature and History: The Case of the Korean DMZ," (on line version) The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 43-3-09 (October 26, 2009)
- 2008 - “Atarashii busshitsu shugi,” (The New Materialism), new preface, Kindai no saikochiku: Nihon seiji ideorogi- ni okeru shizen no gainen, Japanese translation, Reconfiguring Modernity (Tokyo: Hosei University Press, 2008)
- 2005 - “Weltgeschichte als japanische Selbst-Entdeckung” (World History as Japanese Self-Discovery), Margarete Grandner, Dietmar Rothermund, and Wolfgang Schwentker, eds., Globalisierung und Globalgeschichte (Wien: Mandelbaum Verlag, 2005) translation of "High Anxiety: World History as Japanese Self-Discovery" 2003.
- 2003 - “'To become as one Dead': Nature and Political Subjectivity in Modern Japan" in Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal, eds. The Moral Authority of Nature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003)
- 2003 - “High Anxiety: World History as Japanese Self-Discovery” in Benedikt Stucktey and Eckhardt Fuchs, eds., Writing World History: 1800-2000 (German Historical Institute London and Oxford University Press, 2003).
- 2003 - “Nature, Japan, and the World History of Modernity” in James C. Baxter and Joshua A. Fogel, eds., Historiography and Japanese Consciousness of Norms and Values (Kyoto: Nichibunken, 2003)
- 2001 - “The Cage of Nature: Modernity's History in Japan," History and Theory 40, 1 (February 2001)
- 1998 - “Naturalizing Nationhood: Ideology and Practice in Early Twentieth-Century Japan," in Sharon Minichiello, ed., Japan's Competing Modernities: Issues in Culture and Politics, 1900-1930 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998)
ARTICLES AND BOOK CHAPTERS CONCERNING Japanese Photography, War Memory, Postwar Politics
- 2015 - “How to Look at Disaster: A Primer for Viewers” in Ayelet Zohar, ed., Beyond Hiroshima, The Return of the Repressed: Wartime Memory, Performativity, and the Documentary in Contemporary Japanese Photography and Video Art (Tel Aviv University: The Genia Schreiber Art Gallery) Published tri-lingually in Japanese, English, Hebrew.
- 2013 - “A Photographic Measure: Intimate Trauma and Cool Distance,”Rethinking Historical Distance (London: Palgrave) edited by Mark Salber Phillips, Barbara Caine, and Julia Adeney Thomas
- 2012 - “Landscape’s Mediation between History and Memory: A Visual Approach to Japan’s Past, 1870-1945,” Asato Ikeda and Ming Tiampo, eds. Art and War in Japan and its Empire: 1931-1960 (Leiden: Brill, 2012)
- 2010 - “Comment: Socializing Trauma: The Problem with Photography,” for Journal of Visual Culture, Special Issue on ‘Visual Evidence and Eyewitnessing,” edited by Vanessa Schwartz and Lynn Hunt (vol. 9, no.3, December 2010)
- 2010 - “Landscape’s Mediation between History and Memory: A Visual Approach to Japan’s Past, 1870-1945,” East Asian History, 36, 2008 (October 2010)
- 2009 - “The Evidence of Sight,” History and Theory, Theme Issue: Photography and Historical Interpretation, 48 (December 2009)
- 2009 - "History and Anti-History: Photography Exhibitions and Japan's National Identity" translated as “Rekishi to hanrekishi– Shashinkan to Nihon no nashuunaru aidentiti” in Susan A. Crane, ed., Myuujiamu to Kioku (Museums and Memories) (Tokyo: Arina Shōbō, 2009)
- 2008 - “Power Made Visible: Photography and Postwar Japan’s Elusive Reality,” Journal of Asian Studies, 67, 2 (May 2008)
- 2008 - “The Shōwa Emperor and Photography: The Unreciprocated Gaze,” in Ben-Ami Shillony, ed., Handbook of the Emperors of Modern Japan (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2008)
- 2001 - "Globalization in Question: Japanese Photography in Contemporary America" in Harumi Befu and Sylvie Guichard-Anguis, eds., Globalizing Japan: Ethnography of the Japanese Presence in Asia, Europe, and America (Nissan Institute/Routledge, 2001)
- 2000 - "History and Anti-History: Photography Exhibitions and Japan's National Identity" in Susan A. Crane, ed., Museums and Memory (Stanford University Press, 2000).
- 1998 - "Photography, National Identity, and the 'Cataract of Times:' Wartime Images and the Case of Japan," American Historical Review 103, 5 (December 1998). Reprinted in Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory: The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001).
- 1996 - “Raw Photographs and Cooked History: Photography's Ambiguous Place in Tokyo's Museum of Modern Art," East Asian History 12 (December 1996)
- 1988 - "Women and Wine in Japan," Wine & Spirits (March 1988)
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