Barak Kushner is Reader (like Associate Professor but slightly different for those unfamiliar with the jargon of a UK university) in modern Japanese history in the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (formerly the Faculty of Oriental Studies) at the University of Cambridge and has a PhD in History from Princeton University. He has written three books: Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice
(Harvard University Press, 2015); Slurp! A culinary and social history of ramen - Japan's favorite noodle soup
(Brill, 2012), awarded the 2013 Sophie Coe Prize for Food History, the longest-running and most generous prize for writing in food history in the English language; and The Thought War - Japanese Imperial Propaganda
(Hawaii 2006). He recently finished running a large translation project, with 6 graduate students, of a book which examines the intersection of media, history and politics entitled Media, Propaganda and Politics in 20th-Century Japan
. As a scholar he has written on wartime Japanese and Chinese propaganda, Japanese media, Sino-Japanese relations, humor, food history, BC class war crimes, and the Cold War. Currently, he is working on a monograph concerning postwar East Asian history, and a second volume about war crimes in East Asia, tentatively entitled The Construction of Justice in East Asia and the Search for Legitimacy
Barak also co-edited a volume about Japan's lost decades with former Asahi Shimbun
editor-in-chief, Funabashi Yoichi, entitled Examining Japan's Lost Decades
. He assisted in this several year-long project at the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation
in Tokyo by managing the research group and editorial process, as well as helping to lead the international conference.
In March 2013 he launched a 5-year European Research Council funded project, “The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East Asia, 1945–1965.”
This 5-year grant will examine the impact of the fall of the Japanese empire in East Asia. The project manages several postdoctoral research associates and offered two full scholarships to PhD students in an effort to investigate this important historical moment. In the summer of 2008 he was a visiting scholar at Nanjing University (China) and during 2009 he was a visiting scholar at Waseda University (Japan). Previously, Kushner worked in the US Department of State as a political officer in East Asian affairs and taught Chinese and Japanese history at Davidson College in North Carolina, USA.
Kushner’s latest monograph analyzes the postwar adjudication of Japanese war crimes in China and the legal aftermath. His second book examined food and history within Sino-Japan relations, centering on the popular ramen noodle dish. The ramen book has been the focus of numerous articles in the major Japanese presses, including interviews in the Asahi Shimbun
(which featured a page-long piece), Yomiuri Shimbun
, (including a mention on page one) Mainichi Shimbun
, Sankei Shimbun
, Tokyo Shimbun
, Nikkei Business Weekly
, a variety of provincial newspapers and the popular Japanese television variety show 世界不思議発見 (The World's Amazing Discoveries!). He has also appeared on the BBC radio show, In Our Time
, to discuss the Sino-Japanese War or WWII in East Asia and been interviewed about Japanese food history by New Zealand Radio.
His academic articles have appeared in Past and Present, Journal of Contemporary History, Diplomatic History, The International History Review, Japanese Studies, Journal of Popular Culture
, and the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
. He has published numerous book chapters in edited volumes dealing with: a postwar media history of Godzilla, kamishibai and children's wartime propaganda in Japan, the Chinese influence on early 20th century notions of modern cuisine in Japan, Japan's 1940 Olympic plans, the image of Japan in Chinese humor, and other topics.
Dr. Kushner received his BA from Brandeis University and then began his career as a high school teacher of social studies in Chicago. Later, he traveled to Iwate, Japan where he taught English, lived in a Buddhist temple, and attended Japanese elementary school, studying Japanese along with other students ages 6-12. On and off he lived in Japan for about 7 years - in Tokyo, Yokohama and Iwate, at times studying at Rikkyo University and Tokyo University. After completing courses in advanced Japanese, Kushner was an editor/ translator at the National Institute for Research Advancement, a think tank in Tokyo. He taught western history at Shenyang Teacher's University in the north of China where he also studied Chinese and began research in Chinese history. After returning to the United States he attended graduate school at Princeton University and received a PhD in history.
Dr. Kushner has been invited to speak about East Asian History at University of Passau, Germany, York University (UK), Lafayette College (USA), Kings College London, Centre of Taiwanese Studies, SOAS, University of London, Daiwa Anglo-Japan Foundation, London, Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO), Paris, France, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France, Florida State University (Tallahassee), William and Mary College (Program in Washington DC), the University of Hong Kong, University of Texas (Austin), University of Heidelberg, University of Sydney (Australia), Murdoch University (Perth, Australia), Aichi University (Japan), National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University (Taiwan), Tunghai University (Taiwan), Nanjing University (China), SOAS, the Royal College of Art in London, University of Bristol, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Berlin), University of Oxford, Tokyo University, Waseda University (Japan), the University of Alaska at Anchorage, Pennsylvania State University, Kansas University, Western Michigan University, Rowan University, Occidental College, George Washington University, Indiana State University, Brandeis University, Hebrew University (Jerusalem), and the University of Oregon. He is on the editorial board of the journal, Modern Asian Studies
, and also served as an historical consultant for the Japan Society in New York City. Barak has completed several academic translations on various topics in Japanese history from Japanese to English. He speaks and reads Japanese, Chinese, and French.
Kushner has obtained several grants and fellowships in the course of his research: a multi-year grant from the Toshiba Foundation to investigate the role of media in the formation of historical opinions, a 2012-2013 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, a 2012 and 2007 Japan Foundation Endowment Committee Grant; a 2010 British Academy Short Term Grant to Academia Sinica, Taiwan for a research project on the dissolution of the Japanese empire and during the same time he was part of a Taiwanese Ministry of Education Foreign Summer Grant sponsored international academic team exploring the project “Postwar Taiwanese History, 1950-1960.” In 2009 he participated in a Taiwanese Ministry of Education Foreign Summer Grant sponsored academic group which analyzed the theme, “Exploring the Cultural Faces of Taiwan 1945-1960.” In 2008 he was awarded an Abe Fellowship to conduct research (from 2008-2010) into the legal history of the early Cold War in East Asia. He used the award in both China and Japan. While teaching at Davidson College (2002-2005) he received support from three Freeman Foundation grants to conduct research in Japan, China, and Korea. In 2004 Dr. Kushner also received Freeman Foundation support to travel to Mongolia on an SIT-sponsored tour.