Richard M Reitan Professor of History


In college, I studied international relations. In 1991, after two years in Japan studying the language and teaching English, I went to Washington, D.C. for a masters program in international affairs. I returned to Japan in 1993, this time working at a foreign policy think tank in Tokyo, but my interests in the history, religions, literature and philosophy of Japan eventually led me to six more challenging but immensely rewarding years of school at the University of Chicago. I completed my doctoral work there in 2002 in the field of Japanese history.

I teach surveys of East Asian history and topics courses on modern China and Japan. Specific courses include “Eccentrics, Rebels and Outcastes: From the Margins of Japanese History” and "Catastrophe: Ecology, Culture and Japanese History". My current research centers on environmental history and the social reproduction of the global environmental crisis.

I have spent seven or eight years in East Asia. Most of that time was in Japan, but I have also lived in Beijing and Hong Kong, and travelled to Seoul, Taipei, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and elsewhere in East Asia. I have acquired a high level of ineptitude in Judo and had the misfortune (once) to try sumo.

Professional Positions

Franklin and Marshall College, Associate Professor

Franklin and Marshall College, Assistant Professor, July 2006-July 2012

Rachel Carson Center for Environment, Munich, Germany, Visiting Scholar, summer 2019

Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, Visiting Scholar, Summer 2018, Jan-May 2019

Advanced Studies in England, Bath, U.K., Visiting Associate Professor, fall, 2018

University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, Visiting Scholar, 2009-2010

University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO Instructor, Aug 2005-June 2006

Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan SSRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Aug 2004-June 2005

University of Washington, Seattle WA Freeman Postdoctoral Fellow, Sept 2003-Aug 2004

George Washington University, Washington, D.C. Visiting Assistant Professor, Sept 2002-June 2003

Director, Japan Summer Study Program (2007 & 2008), Franklin & Marshall College

Member of the Association for Asian Studies & the American Historical Association


Ph.D. University of Chicago, History, 2002

M.A. Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced Int'l Studies (SAIS), 1993

B.A. University of Washington, Jackson School of International Studies, 1987


Modern Japanese history; environmental history, neo-liberalism & neo-conservativism in contemporary Japan; Japanese philosophy and religions; ethics, psychology, and gender in Meiji Japan.

Grants & Awards

  • Humanities Initiative Grant, Franklin & Marshall College, 2018 
  • Hackman Faculty Research Grant, Franklin & Marshall College, 2017
  • Mellon Course Development Grant, Franklin & Marshall College, 2017-18
  • Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) German Language Study Grant, 2014
  • Japan Foundation Japanese Studies Fellowship, August 2009-August 2010
  • Fulbright Visiting Specialist Program: Direct Access to the Muslim World, Co-Coordinator for Institutional Application, Awarded to Franklin & Marshall College, July 2008
  • Social Science Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship, Waseda University, Tokyo, 2004-05
  • Freeman Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 2003-04
  • Woodrow Wilson Foundation/Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship, 2001



Making a Moral Society: Ethics and the State in Meiji Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010.

The Fears of the Aesthetic Community: Interiority and Capitalist Modernity in Japan (in process).

Holistic Ecologies: Japan, Capitalism, and the Social Reproduction of the Environmental Crisis (in process).


“Teaching China's Global Environmental Crisis,” (under review).

“Ecology and Japanese History: Reactionary Environmentalism’s Troubled Relationship with the Past,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Vol. 15, Issue 3, No. 1 (Feb 2017).

“Narratives of Equivalence: Neoliberalism in Contemporary Japan,” Radical History Review no. 112 (winter 2012), 43-64.

“Völkerpsychologie and the Appropriation of “Spirit” in Meiji Japan,” Modern Intellectual History 7:3 (2010): 495-522.

“Historical Trajectories: Progress and Degeneration in Modern Japanese History,” in Whither Japanese Philosophy II: Reflections Through Other Eyes. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy, 2010, 43-70.

“Claiming Personality: Reassessing the Dangers of the New Woman in Early Taishô Japan,” positions: east asia cultures critique 19:1 (spring 2011): 83-107.

“Ethics and Natural Right Theory: Competing Conceptions of Nature during the Meiji Period,” Nempô Nihon Shisôshi (The Annual of Japanese Intellectual History), vol. 8 (March, 2009), 1-28.

“National Morality, the State, and “Dangerous Thought”: Approaching the Moral Ideal in Late Meiji Japan,” The Japan Studies Review, vol. 9 (2005), 23-58.


「経済大国としての責任」(Japan’s Responsibility as an Economic Superpower), 中日新聞 (Chunichi Newspaper), 11 August 1992.

「望まれる農業貿易の合意」(Waiting for a Uruguay Round Agreement in Agriculture Trade), 中日新聞,15 August 1992.

「変化に対応できる能力を:生徒には多様な教育必要」(An Ability Responsive to Change: The Need for a Diverse Education for Japan’s Students), 中日新聞, 27 August 1992.

「違い少ない日米の学生」(US and Japanese Students: Much in Common), 中日新聞, 28 July 1992.


“The Significance of the Debate on Capitalism” (Translation of Tôyama Shigeki’s 「資本主義論争の意義」), in K. Hirano and G. Walker ed., Translation and Transition: Marxist Historiography in Japan. Cornell East Asia Program (under review).

“A Year and a Half, Continued” (Translation of Nakae Chômin’s 「続一年有半」), in Jim Heisig ed. Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook. University of Hawai’i Press, 2011.

“Loyalty, Filial Piety and the Foundation of Morality” (Translation of Ônishi Hajime’s「忠孝と道徳の基 本」), in Jim Heisig ed. Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook. University of Hawai’i Press, 2009.

“An Outline of National Morality” (Translation of Inoue Tetsujirô’s 「国民道徳概論」抜粋, 1912), in From Japan’s Modernity. Chicago: Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago, 2002.

“On the Poor” (Translation of Ueki Emori’s 「貧民論」1885), trans. Richard Reitan and Katsuya Hirano, in From Japan’s Modernity. Chicago: Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago, 2002.

“Report to the Daimyo Concerning a Policy for the Expulsion of Foreigners” (Translation of Sakuma Shozan’s 「攘夷の策略に関する藩主宛答申書」1862), in Readings in Tokugawa Thought, 3rd Edition. Chicago: Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago, 1998.

“A Draft of the Imperial Injunction” (Translation of Sakuma Shozan’s 「勅諭草案」1864), in Readings in Tokugawa Thought. Chicago: Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago, 1998.


Review of Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History, by Miriam Kingsberg, Journal of Japanese Studies 41,2 (2015).

Review of The Theft of History, by Jack Goody, Journal of World History 20:3 (Sept. 2009).

Review of Ideology, Culture and Han: Traditional and Early Modern Korean Women’s Literature, by Lee Younghee, Journal of Asian Studies 62:4 (Nov. 2003).

Editor, Asia-Pacific Review, vol. 2, no. 1 (Tokyo: foreign policy journal published by the Institute for International Policy Studies, 1995).


Rachel Carson Center for Environment, Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich, Germany, July 24, 2019.                                                                                                            Title: “Value, Time, and Holism: Forest Aesthetics and Capitalism in Early 20th c. Japan” 

Humboldt University, Berlin Workshop in Institutional Analysis of Social-Ecological Systems, Berlin, Germany, January 28, 2019.                                                            Title: “Forest Aesthetics and Material Reality in Early 20th c. Japan”

Bath-Spa University, Global Citizenship Programme, Bath, UK, November 12, 2018.
Title: “Interdisciplinary Education & the Environmental Crisis”

Humboldt University, Berlin, Berlin-Brandenburger Colloquium für Umweltgeschichte (Environmental History Colloquium) February 15, 2018.                              Title: “Holistic Communities: The Social Reproduction of the Environmental Crisis” 

University of Maryland, Baltimore County, November 2015                                                                     
Discussant: “Asia in Context: The Human & Physical Environment”

University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy, Tokyo, November 2013                                                           
Title: "Fears of the Aesthetic Community: Organicism & Atavism in Late Meiji Japan"

Yokohama National University, Workshop: "Translating the West," Yokohama, June 2012
Title: "The Utility of Mental & Moral Science in Meiji Japan"

University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy, Tokyo, July 2010
Title: 「現代日本におけ「同等」あるいは平等という語り:新自由主義への批評」
(Narratives of Equivalence in Contemporary Japan: A Critique of Neoliberalism)

Association for Cultural Studies Annual Conference, Hong Kong, June 2010
Title: “Narratives of “Equivalence in Contemporary Japan: Preliminary Considerations for a Critique of Neoliberalism”

Yonsei University, University of Tokyo/Yonsei University International Workshop on “Critique”, Seoul, March 2010
Title: “Satire and the Limits of Critical Practice”

University of Tokyo, Center for Philosophy, Tokyo, Japan, June 2009
Title: “The Social Mind and the Body of the Crowd: Crowd Psychology in Early Twentieth Century Japan”

Cornell University, East Asia Colloquium, Ithaca, NY, Oct 2008
Title: “Regulating the Social Mind: Psychology and the Appropriation of Spirit in Meiji Japan”

Tôhoku University, Japanese Intellectual History Workshop, Sendai, Japan, June 2008
Title:「明治日本におけるガイストと精神」(Geist and Spirit in Meiji Japan)

Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, April 2008
Title: “From Geist to Seishin: A Genealogy of Spirit in Modern Japan”

Asian Studies Conference Japan, Tokyo, Japan, June 2007
Title: “Reassessing the Dangers of the New Woman in Taisho Japan”

Waseda University, Workshop on Modern Japanese Literature, Tokyo, Feb 2005
(Cultivating Female Morality in Early Twentieth-Century Japan)

University of Chicago, Methods and Metaphors in Japanese Studies, Chicago, May 2004
Title: “The Ethics of Gender: Past and Present Discourses on Transformation & Agency”

University of Washington, UASI Seminar on Teaching Asian Studies, Seattle, January 2004
Title: “Historiography in the Teaching of Asian History: Critiquing Past and Present Conceptions of Historical Change”

Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., April 2002
Title: “Civilization and Foolishness: Ethics in Early Meiji Japan”

University of Tokyo, University Research Group on Ethics, Tokyo, July 2000
Title: 「明治時代における倫理学と倫理思想」(Ethics and Ethical Thought in Meiji Japan)

Course Information

HIS 151/HIS 152: Premodern/Modern East Asian History

HIS 352: From the Margins of Japanese History

HIS 271: Imperialist Aggression & Revolutionary Change in China

HIS 450:  Catastrophe: Ecology, Culture, and Japanese History

CNX 222: Better Worlds

HIS 260: History Workshop - Methods and Practice