What is your discipline and country (or countries) of interest?
I received my PhD in History, although my MA and BA were in Philosophy. As a historian of modern Japan, I focus on three research issues: Japanese empire and imperialism; Russo/Soviet-Japanese relations on the Asian mainland; and left- and right-wing Japanese radical political thought and movements in the twentieth century.
Why did you join AAS, and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues?
I remember initially I joined AAS to have access to job postings. But AAS is so much more. It is the main organization for scholars of Asia, and it creates an academic community through its publications, digital tools, and opportunities for various collaborations. The annual conference is the main event of the year, which allows AAS members to see where the scholarship is moving, as well as to meet old and new friends. Importantly, AAS also provides a platform for broader discussion and united action to address such issues as gender, race, and class in the field of Asian Studies and in academia in general.
How did you first become involved in the field of Asian Studies?
When I was a student at Moscow State University, I was drawn to Japanese culture, thought, and literature. There was a little Japan boom in Russia in the late 1990s. I studied the Japanese language and went to do graduate studies at the University of Tokyo. Studying modern Japanese history and thought, especially on imperialism, political economy, and radical movements, became very rewarding and intellectually very stimulating so that I could not imagine any other career that I would have liked to take.
What do you enjoy most or what were your most rewarding experiences involving your work in Asian Studies?
I like to see how Asian Studies is evolving, and I like to participate in this process. I think currently Asian Studies is very vibrant and dynamic and being transformed by new exciting scholarship, which, in turn, is stimulated by the socioeconomic, political, and environmental changes we live in globally. In terms of my research interest, Asian Studies is moving away from nation-centered histories to incorporate transnational, trans-imperial, and global perspectives. In my first monograph, Revolution Goes East: Imperial Japan and Soviet Communism (Cornell University Press, 2020), I went beyond the limits of the conventional East Asian area studies to show how Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union had been intellectually, culturally, and politically a part of modern East Asia. That I was able to do that work creatively was the most rewarding experience for me.
Tell us about your current or past research.
My first monograph, Revolution Goes East, dealt with both geopolitical and ideological dimensions of Japanese engagement with Soviet communism. By examining the relationship between the Soviet Union and the Japanese empire during the 1920s, I attempted to challenge Eurocentric understandings of Japanese anticommunism and correct important misconceptions about Japan’s imperial policies in East Asia.
In my second project, I turn to Soviet-Japanese relations in the Mongolian territories between the 1900s and 1950s. There are no studies that compare Soviet and Japanese imperial formations in East Asia. By placing the Mongols in the center of a Eurasian history, the project challenges historiographical compartmentalization in the representations of the Mongols established during the Cold War. To reconsider Eurasian history from the vantage of the Mongols, we can identify strategies, power relations, and policies that great powers (Russia, China, Japan), regardless of their ideological preferences, have deployed in dealing with “small people” caught in the regional power struggles.
What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a career in Asian Studies?
Take time to master the language of the country of your interest. Even better, master two Asian languages. If possible, spend considerable time in the country. Read widely, not only in your discipline. If you are a historian, read literature and philosophy, study art and science. Read about other parts of the world extensively, too. Be open-minded and curious. For example, I got a lot of inspiration from Russian historiography and literature. Interdisciplinary training and interests will make you a more creative and better scholar.
Outside of Asian Studies, tell us some interesting facts about yourself.
I love traveling. My husband is from Uruguay, so our family of four is constantly on the move between South America, Russia, the United States, Japan, Mongolia, and Europe. I am grateful I can show my children how connected the world is.