Professor of History
Professor in Asian Studies; Director Asian Studies Program
Gerald Figal has appointments in the History Department and the Asian Studies Program where he does teaching and research in modern Japanese cultural history and media studies. His first book, Civilization and Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan (Duke UP, 1999), is a study of how traditional folk beliefs and a wider discourse on the mysterious and supernatural were variously reconfigured in the context of Japan’s modernization to serve the consolidation of a nation-state on the one hand and to offer a platform of critique of Japan’s path to modernization on the other. His latest book, Beachheads: War, Peace, and Tourism in Postwar Okinawa (Rowman & Littlefield Asia/Pacific/Perspectives Series, 2012) considers issues of tourism and war memorialization in postwar Okinawa. He has several journal articles in this area, including “Waging Peace on Okinawa” that was cited as Honorable Mention for Best Article in the journal Critical Asian Studies in 2001. He has presented sections of this work at many domestic and international fora of Japanese historical and cultural studies.
In addition to these fields of research, Professor Figal has, through his teaching of a Japanese anime course, developed a growing interest in film and media studies. He has recently embarked on a third book-length project, “The Medium is the Monster: Supernatural Circuits and Consumer Fantasies in Contemporary Japan,” which concerns the intersection of media, consumerism, and the monstrous in contemporary Japan. His article “Monstrous Media and Delusional Consumption in Kon Satoshi’s Paranoia Agent” in Mechademia vol. 5 (Fall 2010) is his first publication in this area.
Figal served six years as Japan Book Review for the Journal of Asian Studies, and was the Acting Director of the East Asian Studies Program in 2005-2006. Arriving at Vanderbilt in 2003, he previously taught at Lewis & Clark College and the University of Delaware.