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 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, 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.

Select articles

“The ‘Hiroshima Maidens’ on Different Shores: De-centralizing Scarred Japanese Femininity in the A-bomb Victimhood,” Gender and History 33.2 (June 2021).

“Lack of Empathy Takes the United States Deeper into the Second Cold War,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 18.14.17 (July 2020).

“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): 235-258. Selected as Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2019. 

“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.
  • Excellence in Diversity Award, 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, 2012-13.
  • John K. Hudzik Award, International Studies and Program, MSU, 2012.
  • NEAC Research Grant, Association for Asian Studies, 2012.

Public History

Naoko Wake Collection of Oral Histories with US Survivors of the Atomic Bomb,” Densho Digital Archives.

Upheavals,” Legacies of the Enlightenment.

Asian America’s Fear, Anger and Isolation is Rooted in US History” (op-ed), The Hill, 2021.

American Survivors of Atomic Bombs,” Q13 FOX Seattle, 2021.


  • 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