East Asian History
It is hard to overstate the importance of East Asia. China is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, with unique religious and philosophical traditions. The allure of Orient fueled the ambitions of early modern European explorers, and the military and economic power of East Asian states has assured their continued prominence. From the ways that pre-modern Asia helped shape the world to modern trans-Pacific international relations, knowledge of East Asian history has become essential to those interested in everything from business and politics to science and education.
MSU is an excellent place to explore that history and pursue advanced study of Asia. The university’s Asian connections extend back to the 1880s, when students from Japan enrolled in what was then Michigan Agricultural College. Since then, MSU faculty have developed study abroad programs in many Asian countries and regularly conduct research across the continent. Distinguished scholars including Warren Cohen, Atsuko Hirai, Kwan-wai So, and Steve Averill have taught East Asian history at Michigan State during the last half-century. Today three core faculty members comprise the East Asian field: Aminda M. Smith specializes in Chinese history, Charles Keith is a scholar of Vietnam, and Ethan Segal focuses on Japan. Their research interests range from urban and gender history to communist ideology and thought reform, and from music as a means of political protest to nationalism, education, and popular culture. In addition, history faculty Sayuri Shimizu and Gordon Stewart study Asian topics including twentieth-century East Asian-U.S. relations, the development of Japanese baseball, and the British in India and Tibet.
The department’s East Asia faculty also work closely with scholars in Anthropology, Political Science, Linguistics & Languages, and many other departments across the university when directing graduate students with interdisciplinary interests. Michigan State’s Asian Studies Center is a Title VI nationally recognized graduate resource center. Through speaker series, cultural events, and conferences, the center promotes active dialogue and engagement with topics of interest to those studying Asia on campus. Graduate students can apply to the center for FLAS fellowships that cover tuition and offer a stipend in support of the study of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and several other languages in the U.S. or abroad. Furthermore, MSU is the proud home of Studies on Asia, a peer-reviewed on-line academic journal, as well as MATRIX and H-Net, which host several dozen electronic discussion groups, including H-Japan, H-Asia and H-Buddhism. Our students are well prepared to compete for positions as an increasing number of colleges and universities seek historians of Asia. Recent scholarly publications by former students cover a wide range of topics including ethnicity and identity among Manchu women, Chinese tea houses as sites of social rebellion, and architecture as an expression of urban power in medieval Japan. MSU graduates have gone on to hold posts at academic institutions such as the University of Sydney, Texas A & M, the College of New Jersey, and in the California State University system, as well as to work in government, business, and education.
We welcome applications from qualified students interested in pursuing doctoral study of Asian history. Please feel free to contact the department for more information.