Max Ward

Assistant Professor of History

Japan, East Asia, Social Theory

 On leave 2015-2016 academic year
 on leave academic year

Max Ward teaches Japanese and East Asian history, with a special focus on questions concerning ideology and social theory. 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 intersections between imperial ideology and state power in 1930s Japan. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Ghost in the Machine: Imperial Ideology and Thought Reform in Interwar Japan, which analyzes the imperial state’s policies to ideologically rehabilitate incarcerated communists in the 1930s. In addition to his research on interwar thought reform policies, he has also written/presented on a wide-range of topics, including Japanese colonialism in Korea, postwar Japanese film, Kyoto school philosophy, fascism as a global phenomenon as well as postcolonial theory and the question of historical difference. He has received a number of grants and fellowships, including from Fulbright Program, US Department of Education, and the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Selected Publications/Talks:

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

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

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

Essay (under review): “Tanabe Hajime as Storyteller; Or, Reading Philosophy as Metanoetics as Narrative” in Confronting Capital: Rethinking the Kyoto School, edited by Fabian Schaefer and Viren Murthy. Under review at Brill

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

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 Zangedō to shite no tetsugaku”, University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy, July 2013,

Invited Talk: “Law, Subjectivity, and Imperial Sovereignty: An Analysis of the Japanese Peace Preservation Law through the Colonial Question”, Center of Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, Feb. 2013

Paper: “Fukumoto Kazuo and the Question of Ideology: Towards a New Conceptual History of Tenko”, Association of Asian Studies, San Diego, March 2013

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

Workshop paper: “Provincializing Marxism in 1930s Japan: Disjuncture, Abstraction, and Adequacy” at the East Asian Marxisms Workshop, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan, June 2012



Course List: 

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

FYSE1376 - 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 2012, Fall 2016

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HIST0112 - Modern East Asia      

Modern East Asia
In this course we will examine East Asian history from 1800 to the present. We will study the “Chinese World Order,” the patterns of European imperialism that led to this order’s demise, the rise of Japan as an imperialist power, and 20th century wars and revolutions. We will concentrate on the emergence of Japan, China, and Korea as distinct national entities and on the socio-historical forces that have bound them together and pried them apart. We will seek a broader understanding of imperialism, patterns of nationalism and revolution, and Cold War configurations of power in East Asia. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. AAL CMP HIS SOC

Spring 2014

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HIST0235 / JAPN0235 - 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 SOC

Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016

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HIST0236 / JAPN0236 - 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 SOC

Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2015

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HIST0312 / JAPN0312 - 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 SOC

Spring 2014

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HIST0430 / JAPN0430 - East Asia/Japan's Long Postwar      

Readings in Modern East Asian History: Post-colonial East Asia and Japan's "Long Postwar"
With the end of the Cold War and the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989, long simmering debates reignited over the meaning of Japan's prewar empire in East Asia, Japanese wartime atrocities, and the reconfiguration of East Asia within the Cold War. In this course, students will investigate how events from over 60 years ago have continued to reproduce national identities and geopolitical relations in postwar East Asia. Through a variety of novels, films, and historical analyses, we will investigate the limits of, and tensions between, individual experience, memory, national history, and geopolitics. 3 hrs. sem. AAL CMP HIS

Spring 2013

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HIST0436 / JAPN0436 - 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

Fall 2013, Spring 2015

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HIST0500 - Special Research Projects      

Special research projects during the junior year may be used to fulfill the research seminar requirements in some cases. Approval of department chair and project advisor is required.

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Winter 2016, Fall 2016

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HIST0600 - History Research Seminar      

History Research Seminar
All history majors who have not taken a writing and research seminar are required to take HIST 0600 in their junior fall or, if abroad at that time, their senior fall semester. In this course, students will conceive, research, and write a work of history based on primary source material to the degree possible. After reading and discussion on historical methods and research strategies, students will pursue a paper topic as approved by the course professors. HIST 0600 is also open to International Studies and Environmental Studies majors with a disciplinary focus in history. 3 hr. sem

Fall 2014

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HIST0700 - 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 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2016

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HIST1022 / JAPN1022 - Tokyo History & Utopia      

Tokyo: Between History and Utopia
In this course we will explore the history of Tokyo – from backwater village 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, play, consumption, and, for many, decadence. Through a range of sources, including film, novels, ethnographies, and historical essays, we will use Tokyo as a lens through which to explore broader questions related to capitalist modernity, the formation of the modern nation-state, cultural identity, the politics of gender, and mass-culture. AAL HIS WTR

Winter 2013

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JAPN0500 - 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.

Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

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JAPN0700 - 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)

Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

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Department of History

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