Naoko Wake

Position: Professor
Field: 20th Century, Comparative, Cultural, Women & Gender, Science/Medicine
Region: United States, East Asia

Office: 306B Old Horticulture
Office Hours: TBD
Phone: (517) 884-4933

I am a historian of race, gender, sexuality, and illness in the twentieth century United States and the Pacific Rim. I am intrigued by the ever-present tension between objectivity and subjectivity in medical and cultural practices, and by the historically changing ways in which sufferers, caregivers, and physicians have grappled with such tension. I have written on the history of psychiatric and psychoanalytic approaches to homosexuality in my first book Private Practices: Harry Stack Sullivan, the Science of Homosexuality, and American Liberalism (Rutgers, 2011). My second monograph concerns Japanese American and Korean American survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, titled American Survivors: Trans-Pacific Memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Cambridge, 2021). In this work, as well as in my co-authored book (with Shinpei Takeda) Hiroshima/Nagasaki Beyond the Ocean (Yururi Books, 2014), I have explored gender, racial, cross-national identities that emerged in Asia and Asian America in post-colonial contexts, and a range of grass-roots activism that took shape in response to the nuclear destruction: patient rights, civil rights, anti-war and -nuclear activism. I continue to be fascinated by personal experiences and memories of trauma, pain, and illness, and how they coexist and collide with social and cultural institutions. My current project is about the history of disability among Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans. I work with graduate students in the US modern history, history of gender and sexuality, Asian American history, history of medicine, and history of nuclear weaponry.


  • “Asian American Disability: A History and Its Archives,” Journal of American Ethnic History, editor of special issue “Asian American Disability,” 43.3 (2024), 5-33.
  • “A Long Road to Disability Compensation in Cold War America,” in Resisting the Nuclear: Art and Activism across the Pacific, edited by Elyssa Faison and Alison Fields (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2024), 237-257.
  • “Harry Stack Sullivan: Engaging Interdisciplinarity, Sexuality, and Racism,” in Breaking Boundaries: Culture, Politics and Race in the Making of Interpersonal Psychoanalysis, edited by Roger Frie and Pascal Sauvayre (New York: Routledge, 2022), 21-48. Winner of the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Psychology Annual Book Award.
  • “The ‘Hiroshima Maidens’ on Different Shores: De-centralizing Scarred Japanese Femininity in the A-bomb Victimhood,” Gender and History, 34.1 (March 2022), 201-221.
  • “Loneliness, Laughter, and Belonging: A Feminist View of an Asian in America,” in Unpredictable Agents: The Making of Japan’s Americanists during the Cold War and Beyond, edited by Mari Yoshihara (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2021), 149-161.
  • “Lack of Empathy Takes the United States Deeper into the Second Cold War,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 18.14.17 (July 2020). Included in the American Historical Association’s A Biography of Historians’ Response to COVID-19, “Race and Health: Past Pandemics and Epidemics.”
  • “Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis Meet at a Mental Hospital: An Early Institutional History,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 74.1 (January 2019), 34-56.
  • “Atomic Bomb Survivors, Medical Experts, and Endlessness of Radiation Illness” in eds. Janet Brodie, Vivien Hamilton, and Brinda Sarathy, Inevitably Toxic? Historical Perspectives on Contamination, Exposure, and Expertise (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), pp. 235-258. Winner of 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title.
  • “Surviving the Bomb in America: Silent Memories and the Rise of Cross-national Identity,” Pacific Historical Review, 86.3 (August 2017), 472-509. Winner of 2018 Oral History Association Best Article Award.

Awards and fellowships

  • Dibner Research Fellow in the History of Science and Technology, The Huntington Library, 2018-19.
  • Agnese N. Haury Travel Grant, Center for the United States and the Cold War, New York University, 2018-19.
  • Wallis Annenberg Award, University of Southern California Libraries, 2018-19.
  • Excellence in Diversity Award (Individual—Sustained Effort Toward Excellence in Diversity), Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, MSU, 2015.
  • Science, Technology, & Society Grant, National Science Foundation (co-PI), 2014-15.
  • Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims Research Grant, 2013.
  • John K. Hudzik Emerging Leader in Advancing International Studies and Program Award, International Studies and Programs, MSU, 2012.
  • NEAC Research Grant, Association for Asian Studies, 2012.

Public History


  • HST990 Asian Pacific Islander Desi American History
  • HST890  History of Medicine, Gender, and Sexuality
  • HST850 Comparative History of Sexuality
  • HST326 US Foreign Relations since 1914
  • HST319 Asian American History
  • WS/RCAH/LB304  Introduction to LGBTQ Studies
  • WS201 Introduction to Women’s Studies
  • LB324A  Sex Changes: The History of Sexuality in Modern Science
  • LB492 Madness in History: Real and Imagined
  • LB492  Health, Sex, and Feminism in the Trans-Pacific World