Michele M. Mason is an associate professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Her training in modern Japanese literature has been informed by a cultural studies approach, with an abiding concern for historical understanding. Mason's research and teaching interests include modern Japanese literature and history, colonial and postcolonial studies, gender and feminist studies, and masculinity studies. She also continues her engaged study of the history of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear studies, and peace and nuclear abolition movements. Mason’s first monograph, Dominant Narratives of Colonial Hokkaido and Imperial Japan: Envisioning the Periphery and the Nation-State will be released on December 24, 2012 from Palgrave Macmillan. This work is an interrogation of the collective imaginary of Hokkaido that successfully domesticated this island known for centuries as the “Land of Barbarians.” Her critical readings of colonial policies, settler and militia recruitment campaigns, fiction, popular essays, and newspaper reportage from the Meiji period capture the lacuna and distortions that erase the history, culture, and existence of indigenous Ainu and cast Japanese as the main characters, agents, and even victims of the “modernization” process in Hokkaido. Critiquing this model, which favors a lexicon of “development” and “progress” over colonization and conquest, Mason argues that the commonly dismissed colonial project pursued in Hokkaido was a major force in the formation of modern Japan’s national and imperial identities, ideologies, and institutions. Mason conceived of and edited (with Helen J.S. Lee) an innovative anthology entitled Reading Colonial Japan: Text, Context, and Critique (Stanford UP, Feb. 2012). The first book in Japanese or English to date Japan’s age of empire from 1869 (rather than 1895), this work investigates how the Japanese imperial project was understood, imagined, and lived across Japan’s many and varied colonial projects over seven decades. Its unique format combines a diverse selection of translated primary sources with analytical essays. The primary documents, which include legal documents, children’s literature, cookbooks, serialized comics, and literary texts by well-known authors from the period, highlight how central cultural production and dissemination were to the colonial effort, while accentuating the myriad ways colonialism permeated every facet of life. Mason is also co-producer, with Kathy Sloane, of a short documentary film entitled Witness to Hiroshima (2008). In this 16-minute film, Keiji Tsuchiya uses 12 powerful watercolors that he painted in 2000 to tell the story of his experiences in Hiroshima as a 17-year-old soldier during the month immediately following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. While the film addresses a horrific moment in history, it emphasizes how Mr. Tsuchiya has directed his life towards purpose and healing through his life-long commitments to advocating for atomic bomb survivors, opposing nuclear war, and preserving the Japanese horseshoe crab. See www.witnesstohiroshima.com. Mason received a B.A. in Linguistics and Japanese from the University of Oregon, Eugene (1989), an M.A. in modern Japanese literature from the University of California, Los Angeles (1995) and a Ph.D. in Modern Japanese Literature from the University of California, Irvine (2005).
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