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David Ambaras

Professor North Carolina State University

Coordonnées professionnelles

Professor, Department of History, North Carolina State University, effective August 2019




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Teaching and Research Interests

Modern Japan and its empire; social history of imperialism and colonialism; spatial history and mobilities; urban history; deviance and social problems; gender        

Collaborative Research

Bodies and Structures: Deep-mapping Modern East Asian History (, 2016-2024 (current public version: 1.0; projected final version: 3.0). Co-director with Prof. Kate McDonald (History, UC Santa Barbara). NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant (Level II) application currently under consideration (P.I.: David R. Ambaras)

“Mobility and Social Integration in Twentieth-Century East Asia,” Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research. (Project director: Araragi Shinzō, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan), 2013-2018. Status: Overseas Research Collaborator.


Princeton University, Department of History M. A., 1995, Ph. D., 1999

Visiting Scholar, Faculty of Economics, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, 1996-97

The University of Tokyo, Program in Area Studies M. A., 1991, doctoral coursework completed, 1993

Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris License, 1986

Columbia University, Department of Religion B. A., 1984

Fellowships and Grants (selected)

National Humanities Center Fellowship, 2014-2015

American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 2014-2015 (declined)

Co-author (2010) of successful Japan Foundation grant application to secure funding ($274,000) for new Triangle Center for Japanese Studies



Japan’s Imperial Underworlds: Intimate Encounters at the Borders of Empire​ (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Finalist for the International Convention of Asia Scholars ICAS Book Prize in the Humanities, 2019.

Bad Youth: Juvenile Delinquency and the Politics of Everyday Life in Modern Japan ​(University of California Press, 2006).

Finalist for the International Convention of Asia Scholars ICAS Book Prize in the Social Sciences, 2007.

Articles and Book Chapters

David R. Ambaras and Kate McDonald, “What We’re Doing (Overview of ​Bodies and Structures​),” in ​Bodies and Structures: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History​, ed. David R. Ambaras and Kate McDonald (2019), at

“Border Controls, Migrant Networks, and People out of Place Between Japan and China,” in Bodies and Structures: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History​, ed. David R. Ambaras and Kate McDonald (2019), at dules

“Dans le piège du fourmilion: Japonaises et Fujianais en marge de l' Empire et de la Nation” [In the Antlion’s Pit: Japanese Women and Fujianese Men at the Margins of Empire and Nation], Vingtième siècle, revue d’histoire​ 120 (octobre-décembre 2013)

“Topographies of Distress: Tokyo, c. 1930,” in ​Noir Urbanisms: Dystopic Images of the Modern City​, ed. Gyan Prakash (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 187-217.

Finalist for the inaugural SECAAS Article Prize, Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies.

“Juvenile Delinquency and the National Defense State: Policing Young Workers in Wartime Japan, 1937-45,” ​The Journal of Asian Studies​ 63, no. 1 (2004): 31-60

Reprinted in ​Imperial Japan and the World, 1931-1945​, ed. Anthony Best (London: Routledge, 2010)

“Social Knowledge, Cultural Capital, and the New Middle Class in Japan, 1895-1912,” ​The Journal of Japanese Studies​ 24, no. 1 (1998): 1-33

Reprinted in ​Gender and Japanese Society: Critical Concepts,​ ed. Dolores Martinez (Routledge, 2013)

Digital essays, blog posts, and podcasts

David R. Ambaras, Curtis Fletcher, Erik Loyer, and Kate McDonald, “Building a Multivocal Spatial History: Scalar and the Bodies and Structures Project” (Parts 1 and 2), ​PLATFORM__ A digital forum for conversations about buildings, spaces, and landscapes​ (June-July 2019)

David R. Ambaras and Kate McDonald, “Introducing Bodies and Structures 1.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History.” ​#AsiaNow​ (blog), 2019-02-11, at

“WEAI Author Q&A: David Ambaras’s ‘Japan’s Imperial Underworlds.’” ​Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute​ (blog), 2019-01-02.

David Ambaras, interview with Tristan Grunow, ​The Meiji at 150 Podcast​, December 18, 2018.

Book Reviews (recent)

Max M. Ward, ​Thought Crime: Ideology and State Power in Interwar Japan​, reviewed for ​The Journal of Interdisciplinary History​ (forthcoming)

Maren Ehlers, ​Give and Take: Poverty and the Status Order in Early Modern Japan​, and James L. Huffman, ​Down and Out in Late Meiji Japan​, reviewed for ​Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review​ (e-journal) 30 (2019): 120–127

Christopher P. Hanscom and Dennis C. Washburn, eds., ​The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in East Asian Empire,​ reviewed for ​Japan Forum​ 31, no. 1 (2018): 132-34

Samuel Hideo Yamashita, ​Daily Life in Wartime Japan, 1940-1945​, reviewed for ​The Journal of Military History​ 80, no. 4 (2016): 1263-64

Jordan Sand, ​Tokyo Vernacular: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects​, reviewed for The American Historical Review​ 119, no. 5 (2014): 1676-77

Papers and Invited Lectures (recent, selected)

“Japan's Imperial Underworlds: Intimate Encounters at the Borders of Empire,” Panel: “ICAS Book Prize ‘Humanities’ – Shortlisted Authors,” ICAS 11 Conference, Leiden, July 2019

“Japan's Imperial Underworlds: Intimate Encounters at the Borders of Empire,” (1) Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, University of Oxford; (2) University of London School of Oriental and African Studies; (3) University of Cambridge; (4) University of Edinburgh; (5) Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris; (6) Department of History, UCLA; (7) Carolina Asia Center, UNC Chapel Hill; (8) Center for East Asian Studies, Stanford University; (9) Center for Japanese Studies and Center for Chinese Studies, UC Berkeley, March-May 2019. Invited lectures.

“Bodies and Structures: Deep-mapping the spaces of Japanese history,” presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, Washington, DC, March 2018

“Treaty Ports and Traffickers: Children's Bodies and Japan's Re-opening to the Sinosphere,” Meiji Japan in Global History Workshop, Duke University, November 2017

“Japan's Imperial Underworlds: Intimate Encounters at the Borders of the Sinosphere,” Research Colloquium in Extra-European and Global History at ETH Zürich/Universität Zürich, September 2017. Invited lecture.

“Amerika rekishigaku ni okeru shakaishi kenkyū no tenkai to kadai” (Social history research in the United States: development and tasks), Institute of American and Canadian Studies, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan, June 2017. Invited lecture.

“Embodying the Borderland: Nakamura Sueko as Runaway Woman and Pirate Queen,” University of California Santa Barbara, June 2017. Invited Lecture.

“Border Controls, Migrant Networks, and People Out of Place between Japan and China,” Bodies and Structures: Deep-mapping the Spaces of Modern Japanese History, Triangle Center for Japanese Studies conference, December 2016.

“Sino-Japanese Mobilities, Transactions in Children, and Territorial Anxieties in the Age of Imperialism,” Sophia University, Tokyo, September 2016. Collaborative Research Project on Mobility and Social Integration in Twentieth-Century East Asia. Invited lecture.

“Treaty Ports and Body Parts: Child Trafficking, Territoriality, and the Spatial Imaginary of Japan’s Encounter with the Sinosphere,” Bodies and Structures: Making Sense of Space in Japan and the Japanese Empire, Triangle Center for Japanese Studies workshop, May 2016. .

“Teikoku no hazama o koete: idōsei to shūhensei kara mita Nit-Chū kankei no kingendaishi” (Across and between empires: the modern history of Sino-Japanese relations as seen through mobility and marginality), Sophia University, Tokyo, May 2014. Collaborative Research Project on Mobility and Social Integration in Twentieth-Century East Asia. Invited lecture.

“Unsettling Colonialism: Naichijin Precarity in Taiwan,” Triangle Center for Japanese Studies, Conference on “Shifting Terrains of Struggle in Japan and Japanese Studies,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, April 2014.

Scholarly Translations

Yoshida Nobuyuki, “The Emergence of Yose” (Yose no tanjō), in volume on medieval and early modern social history, ed. Martin Collcutt (forthcoming)

Uchida Ryūzō, “The Transformation of Urban Space in Tokyo,” ​iichiko​ 77 (2003)

Kanamori Osamu, “A Discursive Sphere of Self-Referential Cultural Anthropology: An Essay on Paul Rabinow,” in ​Philosophical Designs for a Socio-Cultural Transformation​, ed. Tetsuji Yamamoto (Tokyo and Boulder, Colorado, 1998)

Hashimoto Hiroyuki, “Re-Creating and Re-Imagining Folk Performing Arts in Contemporary Japan,” ​Journal of Folklore Research​ 35, no. 1 (1998): 35-46

Takahashi Jun’ichi, “The Genealogy of the Subject and Ethics: Learning from Foucault,” ​iichiko intercultural​ 9 (1997)


UMR 8173 Chine Corée Japon

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