Postdoctoral Fellows

The Reischauer Institute Postdoctoral Fellowships in Japanese Studies provide recent graduates with the opportunity to continue their doctoral research at Harvard and produce publishable work from their dissertations. The fellows participate in the Japanese studies community at Harvard, work with faculty and students, and present their research in the Japan Forum lecture series at some point during their stay.

The RIJS Postdoctoral Fellows for the 2021-22 academic year are as follows:

SHAYNE DAHL (Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Toronto, 2019)


Dr. Shayne A. P. Dahl is a cultural anthropologist who researches Shugendō and sacred mountains in contemporary Japan. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 2019 and held a two-year SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University (2019–2021) prior to his appointment at the Reischauer Institute.

His dissertation “Mountains of Time: Sacred Mountains and Historical Consciousness in Japan,” presents an ethnographic account of mountain asceticism and pilgrimage in Dewa Sanzan, a sacred mountain range in Yamagata Prefecture. In it, he argues that the space of Dewa Sanzan, like that of other sacred mountains in Japan, stands not only in topographical contrast with the urban sprawl in valleys below, but also in temporal contrast with a culturally and historically unique form of capitalist modernity. For contemporary ascetics, mountain rituals work to bend the linear, clock-time of capitalist modernity into a premodern-like cyclical time of annual rebirth in the mountain’s symbolic womb and of ancestral return on mountain summits. Each chapter of Dr. Dahl’s dissertation explores different ways in which Mount Haguro, Gassan, and Mount Yudono, the three mountains of Dewa Sanzan, constitute a spatiotemporal alterity in modern Japanese society. Dewa Sanzan is a place that evokes modes of historical consciousness for visitors, some of which are contested, but all of which reach into the past as imagined. Engagements with the spatialized past of Dewa Sanzan enable modern people living in an increasingly precarious society to fashion themselves anew, reconnect with ancestors, build new communities, and gain a critical perspective of modern society.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Dahl plans to turn his dissertation into a book that further explores the recent transnational expansion of Shugendō.


SHIORI HIRAKI (Ph.D. History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS University of London, 2021)


Dr. Shiori Hiraki is a scholar of Japanese art history, with particular expertise in art in social life in the early-modern Edo Period (1603-1868). She received her Ph.D. in 2021 from the Department of History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS, University of London.

Her dissertation, titled “Onari: Art, Ritual and Power in Early Modern Japan,” focused on Tokugawa shogunal visits to the Edo residences of region rulers (daimyo), events known as onari (visitations). As an art historian, Dr. Hiraki explored the role of paintings, ceramics, metalworks, textiles, and gardens in these events and discussed how precious artifacts were used to generate an appropriate setting to promote and confirm a given concept of why and what the shogun was, that is, a political philosophy. Each shogun played a role of “shogun,” and hosting daimyo were required to prepare spaces to welcome him in this designated capacity. In her dissertation, Dr. Hiraki concentrated on four shoguns, namely Hidetada, Iemitsu, Tsunayoshi, and Ienari, spanning the whole Edo Period.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Hiraki will revise her dissertation into a book manuscript. She will also be working on an article addressing development of the city of Edo as a specifically “shogunal” metropolis, especially at how gardens were central to this process. This article will expand on her dissertation’s more focused discussion on the use of gardens in onari. It will argue that gardens distilled political power among warrior elites, as crucibles for the meditation of urban developments. Gardens emblematized a process whereby the vast eastern plains – long dismissed as ‘grasslands of Musashino’ – became places to contest aesthetics and affluences.


KARA JUUL (Ph.D. Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, 2021)


Dr. Kara Juul received her D.Phil. from the department of Oriental Studies at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford in 2021. She also holds an M.Phil. in Modern Japanese Studies from Oxford, and a B.Sc. in Business Studies and Japanese from Cardiff University.

Her dissertation “Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead? Teachers’ Perceptions of the Gender Gaps in Mathematics in Japan” explores how teachers construct their views of gender and achievement, and the mechanisms contributing to the non-problematization of achievement disparities in mathematics between boys and girls in Japan.

Her dissertation reveals how important actors in the Japanese education system recognize gender achievement differences, but that these disparities are obfuscated by a combination of gender role expectations, discouragement from taking a gendered perspective, and the education system’s structural features. Furthermore, her work reveals that this effect is exacerbated by their being little societal discussion on the topic – a topic that is often considered “taboo.” Her research also uncovers the pivotal role that the polarized STEM/Humanities track system plays in how teachers construct their perceptions of mathematics gender gaps.

During her year at the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Juul will concentrate on converting her doctoral thesis for book publication. Additionally, she will conduct the research for a series of research articles applying her method to teachers of English and kokugo and expanding upon related themes in her dissertation such as the factors behind female mathematics teachers’ decisions to pursue a career in their male-dominated profession.


YOUJIA LI (Ph.D. Modern Japanese History, Northwestern University, 2021)


Youjia Li is a historian specializing in early modern and modern Japanese history. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of History at Northwestern University in 2021. She is particularly interested in global history, colonialism, history of science and technology, environmental history, and urban history.

Her dissertation “The Muscle-Powered Empire: Organic Transport in Japan and its Colonies, 1850 – 1930” examines muscle-powered transportation technologies – namely rickshaws and human-powered railways – in Japan and Colonial Taiwan. This dissertation demonstrates how small-time businesses stimulated the unexpected proliferation and the surprising longevity of organically powered transport technology. It argues that modernization and empire-building are not always about expanding the scale of advanced technology. Sometimes organic forms of technology and smaller businesses’ efforts are equally crucial in defining the nature of modernity and colonialism. The organic forms of transport were not only coeval but also essential in the making of the modern era.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Li will focus on incorporating digital humanity approaches to the dissertation and transforming it into a publishable book manuscript. She will also conduct preliminary research on a second project under a working title Beyond the Limits of the Empire. This project will focus on small-time Japanese and Taiwanese entrepreneurs/intellectuals in the rubber and mining industries in Southeast Asia, as part of the imperial project of “Southern Expansion” (Nanshin) in the 1920s to 1940s. Additionally she will work on related research articles on animal mobilities and a gendered history of transportation.


KEYAO PAN (Ph.D. Modern Japanese History, University of Chicago, 2021)


Dr. Keyao Pan received his Ph.D. from the Department of History at the University of Chicago in 2021. He specializes in the relationship between human rights discourse and activism concerning the so-called “history problems” in Japan and Asia more generally, and particularly those about "comfort women" and other wartime/colonial atrocities.

Dr. Pan’s monograph, tentatively titled Beyond Postwar, Beyond Nation: “Human Rights” and the “History Problem” in Modern Japan and Asia, will trace how the term jinken (lit. “human rights” in modern usage) has been used to articulate Japanese wartime and colonial atrocities in Asia, changing its original meaning in the early Meiji period when it was deployed as a terminological convenience to translate western legal and political concepts. By looking at how the term has been used by lawyers, activists, and other actors during key historical processes, this book will explore how jinken has been transformed from a nationalist-constitutionalist concept about the relationship between the national citizen and the state to a conglomerate discourse encompassing a degree of transnational potential. This has ramifications both for critiquing Japan’s negative historical legacies and facilitating reparation and justice for its past victims.

At the Reischauer Institute, Dr. Pan will focus on expanding his manuscript and preparing it for publication. He will also be working on a series of articles on the 1950s movement advocating for the amnesty of Japanese war criminals and how it impacted Japan’s stance on human rights discourse in the United Nations. In addition, Dr. Pan is also building a network database of historical justice activism in Japan and Asia using digital tools like Neo4j, GraphXR, and other graph database and visualization tools. Right now, he is working on a graph database of the lawsuits, lawyers, and activists in the 1990s transnational reparation movement for Japan's colonial and wartime atrocities.