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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Below is a list of current Japanese Studies PhD and MPhil students and a brief description of their research


Tom Booth
Supervisor: Professor Mickey Adolphson

Understanding the Causes and Motivations of the Tokusei Protests 1428-1467

The tokusei protests (lit. virtuous governance) were a series of rural protests that occurred throughout the Kinai region of Japan between 1428 and 1467. Rural communities marched on Kyoto and Nara demanding a clearance of personal debts and a reduction in annual tax; when refused, they destroyed the property of temples and moneylenders. Military intervention by the shogunate against the protesters ignited a series of uprisings throughout the region. The origins of these protests have exclusively been understood in structural terms: socio-economic deprivation, political opportunity and the mobilising force of the packhorse drivers have been highlighted as the principle causes of the protests. This methodology has downplayed considerations of agency: what motivated, rather than stimulated, the rural population to rise up? Using insights from social psychology, this project aims to shed light on the identity of the tokusei protester and question how they articulated and interacted with the context of fifteenth century rural Japan.

Mi Kwi Cho
Supervisor: Professor Barak Kusner

Post-war immigration and discrimination in Japan, focussing on zainichi Koreans.

My research interest lies in the study of the Japanese minority groups, with a focus on the zainichi Korean community. The period of my research is the end of the Meiji era to the beginning of the Taisho era where the migration of zainichi Koreans to Japan became apparent.


Rashaad Eshack
Supervisor: Professor Barak Kushner

Rashaad’s research examines the ways that education impacts Japanese diasporic identity construction in Japanese-American, Nikkei, communities. He aims to develop a transnational, historical dissection of the international, national, and community forces that influence the formation of education systems available to Japanese-American children, and the ways in which those schools impact migrant identity. To that end, and in order to transcend a bilateral US-Japan focus in Japanese diaspora studies, he incorporates sources from the US, Japan, and Latin America.


Freddie Feilden
Supervisor: Dr Laura Moretti

Freddie is looking at strategies of adaptation in 19th-century Japanese popular literature, with a particular focus on picturebook genres such as yomihon and gōkan. Through analysing the transformations in content and format, he aims to clarify the connections between narrativity, temporality, text and image on the page - ultimately as a means of considering what these creative rewritings may tell us about the relationship between commercial publication and the evolution of readership from late Edo through into the Meiji period.

Giulia Garbagni
Supervisor: Dr John Nilsson-Wright

Japan's Postwar Envoy Diplomacy in Southeast Asia


Giulia’s PhD research topic will be looking at Japan's envoy diplomacy and its role in regional conflict mediation post-1945.


Choongil (Peter) Hanjavascript:void(0)
Supervisor: Dr John Nilsson-Wright

Peter’s research interest is on the Korean unification question with a specific focus on North Korea’s unification program in the 1980s. His PhD research investigates how international, domestic and South Korean situation influenced Pyongyang’s approach toward unification. Peter is a Gates Cambridge scholar and serves as a member of the National Unification Advisory Council UK.


Helen Magowan
Supervisor: Dr Laura Moretti

Nyohitsu - the construction of femininities through writing
Helen is investigating women’s writing in premodern Japan. Japanese writing, its calligraphic scripts, letterforms, vocabulary and expression, had gendered aspects which affected - and continue to affect - the manner and form in which people express themselves. My research focusses on manuals published in the 17th century teaching women how to write in a ‘feminine’ mode, asking what they tell us about femininities in the early-modern period.


Mina Marković
Supervisor: Professor Barak Kushner

Imperial and Post-imperial Japan and population policies


Mina’s research will look at connections between Japanese political and legal history and demographics. The research aims to show how Japan’s rapid modernisation post-1868 affected the livelihood of individuals in terms of migration and reproduction. Japanese history will be examined from the perspective of state and nation building during imperial times and through government plans for reconstruction and population in post-war Japan.

Guy Pinnington
Supervisor: Dr Vicky Young

Guy’s research uses literature to address attitudes to Zainichi Koreans in postwar Japan; paying particular attention to 2nd generation Zainichi author Yang Seok-il. In his PhD Guy will expand on this and examine the interrelationship between three writers: Yang Seok-il, Kim Sok-pom, and Yi Hoesong, and scrutinise the ways in which they have come to create the canon of Zainichi Korean literature through writings.


Ria Roy
Supervisor: Dr John Nilsson-Wright

Charismatic leadership; North Korea; religion versus secularism.

As a Gates Cambridge scholar and a PhD candidate in Korean history with a broader academic interest in Japan and East Asia, I am eager to delve deeper into the question of the manufacture of charisma in North Korea and to trace its transformation from a state committed to Marxist-Leninist views to one that propagates a semi-mystical view of leadership.


Colton Runyan
Supervisor: Professor Mickey Adolphson

Ascending via Awase: Competitions in Heian Japan


Colton’s PhD research topic concerns the world of premodern sumo wrestling. Specifically he will be looking into the role of the sumo at court, the motivation of the wrestlers, and how sumo was viewed by its spectators. Using sources from the twelfth century onwards Colton’s research will examine the rise, fall and subsequent rise again of sumo; from popularity as a court spectacle, through relative obscurity, to a cultural phenomenon of the Modern era. 

Polina Serebriakova
Supervisor: Professor Mickey Adolphson

Sources of legitimacy for warrior leaders in medieval Japan


Polina’s research is centred around the concept of tenka (天下 Chinese: tianxia) or the realm, that originated in Chinese Classics and has become an integral part of Japanese culture. Specifically, she will investigate how the warrior rulers interpreted this idea as a means of legitimacy and used it to justify their policies and conquests during the course of Japanese medieval history from 12th to 16th century. By juxtaposing geographical and political aspects of tenka Polina seeks to understand which higher authority the idea of the realm was connected to at each historical period in premodern Japan. Questions of sovereignty and rulership shall also be explored.

Reyhan Silingar
Supervisor: Professor Barak Kushner

Reyhan’s research explores the transwar and transnational framing of Japan’s “imperial house diplomacy” by problematising the role of an emperor as symbol of the state through a political and cultural history of the Shōwa emperor’s diplomatic missions across the world. Drawing on newly opened archives, memoirs, and an explosion of available primary source materials in Japan, Britain, the U.S, France and Turkey, she aims to contribute to rethinking the historical evolution of the symbol monarchy, postwar persistence of monarchical diplomacy, and the place of the ex-imperial nobility in the new, postwar Japanese state. 


Chui-Jun Tham
Supervisor: Professor Mickey Adolphson

Ruling the Dead: Spirit Pacification and Regime Legitimation in Japan and China c.1350-1650

Spirit pacification was a practice that reinforced the ruler’s role as protector of the polity from all threats, including the supernatural, and in Japan, also served to put blame for societal ills on the ruler’s enemies. Due to questions of terminology within and between the fields of scholarship on spirit pacification in China and Japan, the persistent and important link between spirit pacification practice and regime legitimation in the years c.1350-1650 has been overlooked. By setting aside terminology and redefining spirit pacification according to the core features of the practice, the proposed dissertation seeks to write a history of spirit pacification as a mentality and an ideology. In doing so, it has two aims: to investigate how spirit pacification played into regime legitimation, and how its role changed, but did not disappear entirely across the late medieval and early modern periods; and to explore the existence of a common, regional imaginary regarding the dead in East Asia.

Ivan Triola
Supervisor: Professor Mickey Adolphson

The role of charisma in shaping New Japanese Religions
My PhD research focuses on the role of charisma in the development of New Japanese Religions, especially on Oomotokyo's off-shoot movements, under the supervision of Prof. Mikael Adolphson.


Weijun Xu
Supervisor: Dr John Nilsson-Wright

My research focuses on the influence of nationalism on foreign policies. I’m trying to explain why a country/region whose regime legitimacy largely depends on nationalism sometimes adopt policies that are not in line with nationalist opinions when it falls into disputes with another country/region? And I mainly concern about the countries and regions in East Asia.



Jie Yang
Supervisor: Dr John Nilsson-Wright

Morality in East Asian Politics


Jie’s research explores whether morality plays a role in state interaction with one another in the East Asian region; and if it does, what are the specific moral principles and whether they are different with moral principles discussed in conventional (Western) International Relation Theory.



Jonathan Yeung
Supervisor: Professor Barak Kushner

Jonathan intends to investigate how nationalistic identities developed amongst a Chinese student community in Tokyo of the early 20th century. By examining student publications as well as official documents and records, Jonathan hopes to place the students’ explorations of identity in a global context, and elucidate the impact of the students’ experience of Japan on wider events happening in China.





Joseph Bills
Supervisor: Dr Laura Moretti

Joseph's research focuses on parody/mock travel guides in early modern Japanese literature. He concerns himself primarily with late eighteenth-century graphic narratives, especially the genre of kibyōshi, and aims to interrogate how the concept of travel and travel literature was co-opted by these works in order to spread specific messages.


Rosi Byard-Jones
Supervisor: Dr Vicky Young

Rosi’s research will examine the relationship between literature, politics, and gender for Japan’s zainichi Korean diaspora in the post-war era. Her MPhil dissertation will read works by writers such as Yi Yang-ji, Chong Chu-wol and Kim Cha’ng-saeng as potential auto- ethnography and explore the implications for self-representation across zainichi women's authorship therein.


Chae Kyoun HA (CK)
Supervisor: Dr John Nilsson-Wright

CK’s research investigates the postwar development of diplomatic relations between Japan, Korea and countries in Southeast Asia with a focus on the differences between ASEAN-Japan relations and Korea-Japan relations, particularly concerning their attitudes toward wartime history.


Sammy Shair
Supervisor: Prof Barak Kushner

Sammy’s research will investigate the claims and discourses surrounding meat-eating in the Meiji period, especially with reference to health, science, morality, and “civilization”, analysing the relationship between competing contemporary epistemologies and everyday experiences.


Angela (Jingxin) Yang
Supervisor: Dr Brigitte Steger

Angela’s research will look at Japanese women’s fashion under the male and the female gaze, focusing on the differences in the portrayal of women in fashion magazines when the gender of the gazes changes.


Pauline (Beichen) Yang
Supervisor: Dr Vicky Young

Pauline studies modern Japanese literature and is going to read specifically the travelogues of Hayashi Fumiko in the 1930s. Besides Hayashi’s celebrated fictions, the less examined travelogues of this wandering woman with a pen offer a perspective to view the tension and collusion between feminism, its contemporaneous public discourses and political reality.


Sisi Yu
Supervisor: Dr Vicky Young

Sisi's proposed research will look for the semiotics of Shinjū: 'love suicide' in Japanese literature and cultural history from the 18th century to the present.


Mariah Zhong
Supervisor: Prof Barak Kushner

Mariah’s research will examine historical narratives of the Second Sino-Japanese War in Japan and China through the lens of collective victimhood and the social identity perspective, focusing on how such narratives shape nationalism and national identity of the populations in Japan and China.