Max Ward

Associate Professor of History

Japan, East Asia, Social Theory

 work(802) 443-5682
 Fall 2018: Tuesday and Wednesday 11:00 am - 12:30 pm, or by appointment
 Axinn Center at Starr Library 342

Max Ward teaches Japanese and East Asian history, with special emphasis on social theory, ideology and political thought. He received his doctorate from New York University’s History Department in 2011 and his Bachelors from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999.

 His primary research focuses on the intersection between imperial ideology and state power in 1930s Japan. His book manuscript titled Ghost in the Machine: Imperial Ideology and Thought Reform in Interwar Japan (under contract) analyzes the imperial state’s policies to rehabilitate incarcerated communists and anti-colonial activists in the Japanese Empire during the 1930s. In addition to his research on imperial state ideology, he has also written/presented on a wide-range of topics, including postwar Japanese film, Kyoto school philosophy, Japanese colonialism in Korea, fascism as a global phenomenon, as well as postcolonial theory and the question of historical difference. His research has been awarded grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Japan Foundation, the Northeast Asia Council of the AAS, the Fulbright Program, among others.

Selected Publications and Papers:

(For publications, please visit:

Co-edited Volume: Confronting Capital and Empire: Rethinking Kyoto School Philosophy, edited by Viren Murthy, Fabian Schafer and Max Ward (Leiden, Brill: 2017)

Chapter: “Tanabe Hajime as Storyteller; Or, Reading Philosophy as Metanoetics as Narrative” in Confronting Capital and Empire: Rethinking Kyoto School Philosophy (Leiden, 2017).

Chapter: “Historical Difference and the Question of East Asian Marxism(s)” in East Asian Marxisms and their Trajectories, edited by Joyce Liu and Viren Murthy. Interventions Series. (London, Routledge: 2017)

Invited Talk: “The Ideology of Conversion: Tenko as Imperial State Ideology in Late-1930s Japan”, Kyoto Asian Studies Workshop, Kyoto University, Japan, April 2016

Article: “Displaying the Worldview of Japanese Fascism: The Tokyo Thought War Exhibition of 1938,” Critical Asian Studies Vol. 47, No. 3 (Sept 2015), pp. 414-439.

Essay: “Ideology and Subjection in Oshima Nagisa’s Koshikei (1968)” in “Perspectives on Oshima Nagisa” UTCP-Uehiro Pamphlet No. 7 (2015), pp. 33-59.

Conference Paper: “May the Gods Save Us! Film Genre, History and Politics in Daiei’s Daimajin Series (1966)”, Fourth Annual Popular Culture Conference, College of St. Joseph, April 2015

Article: “Crisis Ideology and the Articulation of Fascism in Interwar Japan: The 1938 Thought War Symposium,” Japan Forum Vol. 26, No. 4 (Dec 2014), pp. 462-485.

Workshop paper: “Ideological Conversion and Revolutionary Restorationism in 1930s Japan”, Center for Japanese Religions and Cultures, USC, May 2014

Invited Talk: “Philosophical Conversion and the Displacement of History: An Unorthodox Reading of Tanabe Hajime’s Zangedo to shite no tetsugaku”, University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy, Tokyo Japan,  July 2013

(Report, HERE)

Workshop Paper: “Imperial Sovereignty and Colonial Violence: An Analysis of the Japanese Peace Preservation Law through the Colonial Question”, Remediations II Workshop, University of Chicago, March 2013

Conference Paper: “Living Labor and Historical Difference: Un-productivity as Possibility”, North American Labor History Conference, Wayne State, MI, Oct. 2012              




Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1376 - Postwar Japan in Film and Lit.      

Postwar Japanese History in Film and Literature
In this seminar we will study the history of postwar Japan (1945 to the present), focusing on how literature and film have engaged the defining historical and political questions of this period. The seminar is organized around
specific themes, including: trauma and war memory, the Allied occupation, the cold war in East Asia, high economic growth in the 1960s, political protest, post-coloniality, and a resurgent nationalism. Students will learn postwar Japanese history while also considering the possibilities of persuing historical analysis through translated literature and narrative film. 3 hrs. sem. AAL CW HIS

Fall 2016

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HIST 0235 / JAPN 0235 - History of Pre-Modern Japan      

History of Pre-Modern Japan
In this course we will explore the social, cultural, and institutional history of Japan from the eighth century up through the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate in the 17th century. The course is organized thematically to illuminate the different periods of Japanese history, including the imperial origin myth and Heian culture, the frontier and the rise of samurai government, localism and the warring states period, and finally the Tokugawa settlement and the paradoxes of centralized feudalism. Pre-1800. 3 hrs. lect/disc. AAL HIS NOA SOC

Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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HIST 0236 / JAPN 0236 - History Modern Japan/1800-1952      

History of Modern Japan, 1800-1952
This course reviews the major events and enduring questions of modern Japanese history beginning with the Meiji Restoration (1868) up through the Allied Occupation (1945-1952) following Japan’s defeat in World War II. Through a variety of materials, including novels, philosophy, historical essays, and films, we will explore the formation of the modern Japanese nation-state, the “invention of tradition” in constructing a modern national identity, Japan’s colonial incursions into East Asia, 1920s mass culture, the consolidation of fascism in the 1930s, and the transwar legacies of early postwar Japan. We will pay particular attention to the relationship between transformations within Japan and larger global trends. AAL HIS NOA SOC

Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

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HIST 0306 - Global Fascism      

Global Fascism
What was, or is, fascism? How do we know it when we see it? Can fascism be understood as an exclusively European phenomenon, or did it become manifest in movements and regimes in other parts of the twentieth-century world? In this seminar, we will engage with such questions via a range of texts including manifestos, films, and scholarly works. The first part of the course will interrogate seminal theories of fascism, the second will examine historical instances of fascism with particular emphasis on East Asia, and the final part will engage with debates about the contemporary resurgence of authoritarian populism. 3 hrs. Sem. AAL CMP HIS NOA

Fall 2017

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HIST 0312 / JAPN 0312 - Tokyo Between History & Utopia      

Tokyo: Between History and Utopia
In this course we will explore the history of Tokyo—from its "prehistory" as a small castle town in the 16th century to the cosmopolitan metropolis of the 20th century—and trace how Tokyo has captured the imagination as a space of possibility, of play, and for many, of decadence. Through a range of sources, including films, novels, ethnographies, and historical essays, we will use Tokyo as a "site" (both urban and ideological) through which to explore broader questions related to capitalist modernity, the formation of the nation-state, cultural identity, gender politics, and mass-culture. 3 hrs. sem. AAL HIS NOA SOC

Spring 2017, Spring 2018

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HIST 0436 / JAPN 0436 - Readings in Japanese History      

Readings in Japanese History: Modernism and Fascism between the World Wars
The 1920s in Japan is typically understood as a period of political and cultural experimentation, as witnessed by the rise of avant-garde cultural groups and radicalized social movements. In contrast, the 1930s is portrayed as Japan's "dark valley", in which this sense of experimentation was suppressed or co-opted by the state. In this course, we will revisit these tumultuous decades by engaging with a range of historical assessments, novels, and critical essays. We will begin by examining theories of modernism and fascism, and then explore the changing socio-cultural milieu in interwar Japan, including mass-culture, modernization, romanticism, imperialism, and utopianism. (formerly HIST 0418) AAL HIS NOA

Spring 2015

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HIST 0437 - Modernity and its Critique      

Modernity and its Critique: A Global Survey
What do we mean when we refer to “modernity”? What are the defining processes and institutions of modernity? Is modernity universally experienced? And is modernity itself historical? In this seminar we will explore how a variety of thinkers from different regions and time-periods sought to understand the foundational institutions and processes associated with modernity, including the nation-state, colonialism, and ideology. Our exploration will follow two interrelated trajectories. First, we will interrogate key concepts associated with the modern experience; second, we will pay attention to how thinkers formulated these concepts to answer the pressing questions of their contemporary moment. 3 hrs. sem. CMP HIS SOC

Fall 2018

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HIST 0500 - Special Research Projects      

Special research projects may only be taken during the Junior or Senior year, preferable after taking HIST 0600. Approval of department chair and project advisor is required.

Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Winter 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019

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HIST 0600 - History Research Seminar      

Writing History
In this course students discuss historical methods and writing strategies to create convincing historical narratives. With the approval and guidance of the professor, students complete a 20-25-page research paper based on primary and secondary sources. Students take this course in their junior year or if they are away for the entire junior year in the fall of their senior year. 3 hr. sem

Fall 2014

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HIST 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

The History Senior Thesis is required of all majors. It is written over two terms, with the final grade applying to both terms. The project is generally begun in the fall and completed during winter or spring. Approval is required to begin the thesis in winter or spring, and such students must still attend the Thesis Writer's Workshops that take place in fall and winter.

Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019

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JAPN 0500 - Independent Project      

Qualified students may be permitted to undertake a special project in reading and research under the direction of a member of the department. Students should seek an advisor and submit a proposal to the department well in advance of registration for the term in which the work is to be undertaken.

Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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JAPN 0700 - Honors Thesis      

Honors Thesis
Students write a thesis in English with a synopsis in Japanese on literature, film, or culture. The topic for the thesis is chosen in consultation with the instructor. (JAPN 0475)

Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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Department of History

Axinn Center at Starr Library
15 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753


Axinn Center at Starr Library
14 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753