Max Ward

Assistant Professor of History
Japan, East Asia, Social Theory

Phone: work802.443.5682
Office Hours: Fall 2014: Tuesdays 11:00 am - 12:30 pm and Thursdays 1:00 - 2:30 pm, or by appointment.
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Max Ward teaches Japanese and East Asian history, with special emphasis on questions of ideology, culture 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.

Max’s primary research focuses on the intersections between ideology and state power in 1930s Japan. He is currently working on a book that focuses on the Japanese Thought Criminal Protection and Supervision Centers (Shisōhan hogokansatsusho) and the efforts to ideologically rehabilitate ex-communists arrested under the Peace Preservation Law (Chianijihō). In addition to his research on the Peace Preservation Law apparatus, he has also written/presented on a wide-range of topics, including Japanese colonialism in Korea, Kyoto school philosophy, postwar theories of “ideological conversion” (tenkō),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 Papers/Talks:

Article: “Crisis Ideology and the Articulation of Fascism in Interwar Japan: The 1938 Thought-War Symposium” (Under Review)

Article: “Mapping the Ideological Coordinates of Japanese Fascism: The Tokyo Thought War Exhibition of 1938” (Under Review)

Essay: “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. (Submitted)

Essay:“Historical Disjuncture and the Provincialization of Marx, A Review” in East Asian Marxisms,edited by Joyce C.H. Liu and Viren Murthy. (Submitted)

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,       October 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



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

FYSE 1376 - WWII & Japan's Long Postwar      

WWII and Japan's 'Long Postwar'
With the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989, debate re-ignited over Japan’s prewar empire, wartime atrocities, and role in the Cold War – all of which converged in the question of Japan’s “long postwar.” Through a variety of novels, films, and essays, we will explore how this question continues to serve as a paradigm for addressing questions of Japan’s postwar cultural identity, economic prosperity, and social dislocations. Our larger objective will be to analyze how the tensions between the diverse national histories, experiences, and memories of World War II continue to inform the geopolitics of East Asia today. 3 hrs. sem.


Fall 2012

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HIST 0111 - Early East Asia      

Early East Asia
This course explores the history of China, Korea, and Japan in the centuries before extended contact with the West. We will begin by questioning what historians mean by “East Asia” as a historical category and then trace the shared as well as distinct philosophical, political, and cultural practices that defined each region and its respective historical periods. Topics will include Confucianism, Buddhism, the development of local and regional economies, the migration of populations, and the changing modes of statecraft within each area. Pre-1800. Not open to students who have taken HIST 0231 or HIST 0235. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.


Fall 2011

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HIST 0112 - 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.


Spring 2014

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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.


Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2014

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HIST 0236 / JAPN 0236 - History of Modern Japan      

The History of Modern Japan
In this course we will review the major themes and events of modern Japanese history from the Meiji Restoration (1868) to the present. Through reading a variety of primary texts, historical analyses, and literature, as well as watching films, we will explore the formation of the modern Japanese nation-state, Japan’s colonial project in East Asia, 1920s mass culture, the question of Showa fascism, and Japan’s unique postwar experience, from occupation to high-growth and the “lost decade” of the 1990s. We will pay particular attention to the relationship between changes within Japan and larger global trends. 3 hrs. lect./disc.


Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

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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.


Spring 2014

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HIST 0430 / JAPN 0430 - 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.


Spring 2013

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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)


Spring 2012, Fall 2013

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HIST 0500 - 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, Spring 2015

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HIST 0600 - 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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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 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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HIST 1022 / JAPN 1022 - 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.


Winter 2013

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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.

Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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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)

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

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