In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Mark McLelland (1966–2020)

By James Welker

Sociologist and cultural historian of Japan Mark McLelland passed away on 18 November 2020 in Wollongong, New South Wales.

McLelland was well-known for his groundbreaking and influential work across a range of fields, including the cultural history of sexualities in Japan, the global history of the internet, and media and cultural studies. He also made scholarship from Japan accessible through various translation projects.

McLelland was the author of Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan (2000), Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age (2005), and Love, Sex, and Democracy in Japan during the American Occupation (2012). He was also the editor or coeditor of Japanese Cybercultures (2003), Genders, Transgenders, and Sexualities in Japan (2005), AsiaPacifiQueer (2007), Queer Voices from Japan (2007), Internationalizing Internet Studies (2009), Boys Love Manga and Beyond (2015), The Routledge Handbook of Sexuality Studies in East Asia (2015), The End of Cool Japan (2017), and The Routledge Companion to Global Internet Histories (2017). In addition, McLelland published numerous articles and chapters in journals and edited volumes, and gave dozens of plenary addresses and public lectures around the world.

McLelland graduated from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom in 1988, majoring in Theology and Religious Studies, after which he spent two years in Japan as a Monbushō scholar affiliated with the Department of Sociology at the University of Tokyo, where he researched new religious movements in Japan. After completing a graduate diploma in Japanese language studies at the University of Sheffield and an MA from Cambridge, he went to the University of Hong Kong, where he completed a PhD in Japanese Studies in 2000, beginning his research on male homosexuality in twentieth-century Japan for which he would first become known.

Following two consecutive postdoctoral fellowships, the latter of which was an Australian Research Council (ARC) postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Queensland, McLelland began his career at the University of Wollongong as a Lecturer in Sociology in 2006. He was promoted to Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in 2012. McLelland was named Professor Emeritus in 2020, following his retirement after thirteen years at Wollongong.

McLelland also held teaching and research positions in Japan and the U.S., where he was the 2007–2008 Toyota Visiting Professor of Japanese at the University of Michigan. McLelland was the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, which he held from 2013 to 2017.

Over his career, McLelland served on a large number of advisory and editorial boards for research organizations and publications. For the Australian Research Council, he served on the ARC College of Experts and as an Expert Assessor of International Standing and as an ARC OzReader. He was also an external assessor for the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong. McLelland was elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2019. McLelland also served on advisory or editorial boards for the Gender, Sexualities and Culture in Asia book series (Palgrave Macmillan), the Queer Asia book series (Hong Kong University Press), and the journals Asiascape: Digital Asia; Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies; Culture, Society & Masculinities; Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific; Porn Studies, and Sexualities.

McLelland brought a wide range of scholars together through his organization of conferences and symposia on queer Asian Studies, Internet Studies, Fan Studies, and Popular Culture Studies, as well as his many edited collections on these topics. He was particularly supportive of graduate students and early career researchers as well as scholars working outside Anglophone academia. He was a founding member of the AsiaPacifiQueer collective in the early 2000s, which held pioneering conferences and workshops and produced several edited collections, playing a role in the development of the field of Queer Asian Studies.

Mark McLelland will be remembered for his intellectual curiosity, his collegiality, and his scholarly generosity. He will be sorely missed by his many colleagues and friends.

James Welker is a professor in the Department of Cross-Cultural Studies at Kanagawa University in Yokohama, Japan.

For more on the life, work, and legacy of Professor Mark McLelland, please see the video and transcript of our February 2021 AAS Digital Dialogue, “Queering Our Worlds: A Tribute to Mark McLelland.”

Short-Term Research Grant in the History of Japanese Sexualities Established in Honor of Mark McLelland

Professor Mark McLelland left a generous bequest to the Association for Asian Studies, with the request that it be used to establish a new category of award within the existing Northeast Asia Council (NEAC) grants program. With much appreciation to Professor McLelland, the AAS is pleased to announce the establishment of the Short-Term Research Grant in the History of Japanese Sexualities. Professor McLelland’s gift has established this grant fund in the amount of $100,000, and additional donations may be made through the AAS online portal.

This grant is intended for use by scholars who are already familiar with Japan and their topic, but who need time in Japan to complete their work. To that end, annual awards of up to $3,500 will be available for early-career scholars to cover travel and research expenses on trips to Japan for research projects focused on the history of Japanese sexualities. Preference will be given to scholars whose planned research entails archival work, including use of major national and regional archives as well as smaller archives, including private collections.

This preference should not be understood to preclude fieldwork, such as the collection of oral histories. This grant is not intended for primary and/or initial dissertation research fieldwork. Pre-doctoral research will only be considered to finalize a project. With no restrictions on candidates’ nationality or place of residence, the funding provided by this grant may be used to contribute to a long-term research project.

The first round of applications to this program will be accepted in the Spring 2022 NEAC grant cycle, with an application deadline of February 1, 2022. Applications will open in December 2021, and specific guidelines will be posted at that time. Anyone with questions about this new opportunity may direct them to

Thank you to everyone who has assisted the AAS in creating this tribute in honor of Mark McLelland’s memory—we appreciate your support for the future of Asian Studies.