Professor of History
Professor of Asian Studies; Director, Asian Studies
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.
Figal has recently embarked on a third book-length project, “Multiple Exposure: Photography in Postwar Okinawa, 1945-75" which brings into conversation together for the first time in the same work the business, production, and product of Okinawan, mainland Japanese, and American photography of Okinawa and its people.
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.