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Laura Hein


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1986
Curriculum Vitae


Geographic Field(s):  Asian History

Thematic Field(s):  Political and Policy History; Urban History; Economic and Labor History; War and Empire in History

Principal Research Interest(s):  Japan, Transnational, War and its Aftermath


Laura Hein (Ph.D., Wisconsin, 1986), the Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Professor of History, specializes in the history of Japan in the 20th century, its international relations, and the effects of WWII and the Cold War.   Her most recent book is Post-Fascist Japan: Political Culture in Kamakura after World War II, Bloomsbury Press and a Weatherhead Institute Imprint book, 2018.  A Japanese translation for Jinbun Shoin Press is in press, scheduled for 2022.  It explores Japanese local political culture in the aftermath of total war and political repression, and the efforts of her historical subjects to repair the damage done by what they described as fascism.

One of her research streams focuses on debates over economic policy and the implications of various economic theories. Her 2004 book Reasonable Men, Powerful Words: Political Culture and Expertise in 20th Century Japan, explores various ways in which economic expertise intersected with politics through a study of the lives of a tight-knit group of Japanese intellectuals. It was published in Japanese as 理性ある人びと 力ある言葉 ―― 大内兵衛グループの思想と行動. She also has published on economic policy, energy policy, and the ideology of economic growth in postwar Japan, particularly Fueling Growth: the Energy Revolution and Economic Policy in Postwar Japan, 1990, which began life as a dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her most recent publication in this stream is H-Diplo Roundtable on Alan Bollard, Economists at War: How a Handful of Economists Helped Win and Lose the World Wars, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1 February 2021 |

She also has a strong interest in problems of remembrance and public memory, resulting in five co-edited books.  The most recent is  Imagination Without Borders: Visual Artist Tomiyama Taeko and Social Responsibility, Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, October 2010, centered on the work of a contemporary Japanese visual artist. This book was selected for permanent free on-line status in October 2019 by the University of Michigan Press through the Humanities Open Book project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. See here for an Online review of Imagination Without Borders.  Imagination Without Borders is accompanied by a trilingual website created by the Northwestern University Library Digital Scholarship Services.  Earlier books focus on the atomic bomb, history education, transnational responses to 9.11, and the distinctive experience of Okinawans in postwar Japan. For a nice K-12 curriculum featuring Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power, co-edited with Mark Selden, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003) see Columbia University's Expanding East Asian Studies page; also an Online review of Islands of Discontent. 

Laura Hein is active as an editor and serves on the boards of several journals.  Her current main editorial project is to oversee a new edition of the Cambridge History of Japan, in press for 2023.  The first volume, Premodern Japan: A Millennium of Evolving Themes, traces the archipelago’s history through the late sixteenth century. Volume two, Early Modern Japan in Asia and the World, carries the narrative into the late nineteenth century. The third volume, The Modern Japanese Nation and Empire, brings the story to the 21st century.  She has won NEH, SSRC, ACLS, Japan Foundation, and three Fulbright research awards.

Affiliated Programs

  • Program of Asian Studies


Books and Journal Special Issues:   

  • Co-edited (with Rebecca Jennison) Imagination Without Borders: Visual Artist Tomiyama Taeko and Social Responsibility, Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, October 2010. Imagination Without Borders is accompanied by a website created by the Northwestern University Library Digital Scholarship Services.
  • Online review of Imagination Without Borders
  • Reasonable Men, Powerful Words: Political Culture and Expertise in 20th Century Japan. University of California Press and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Press, 2004.  Japanese edition from Iwanami Press:理性ある人びと力ある言葉ーー大内兵衛グループと行動、東京: 岩波書店、2007年7月。
  • Online review of Reasonable Men, Powerful Words
  • Co-edited (with Daizaburō Yui) Crossed Memories: Perspectives on 9/11 and American Power, Center for Pacific and American Studies, The University of Tokyo, 2003.  Wrote chapter: “Citizens, Foreigners, and the State: Japan-U.S. relations in the context of 9.11.”
  • Co-edited (with Mark Selden) Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power, Rowman & Littlefield, April 2003. Wrote introduction, “Culture, Power, and Identity in Contemporary Okinawa."
  • Online review of Islands of Discontent
  • Co-edited (with Mark Selden) Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States, M.E. Sharpe, 2000.  Wrote introduction, "The Lessons of War, Global Power, and Social Change."  Korean edition in 2008. Chinese edition 2011. For information on Censoring History, visit Routledge Publications
  • A nice K-12 curriculum featuring this book is available at Columbia University's Expanding East Asian Studies page.
  • Co-edited (with Mark Selden) Living with the Bomb: American and Japanese Cultural Conflicts in the Nuclear Age, M.E. Sharpe, 1997. Wrote introduction and last chapter. Also available as an ebook. For information on Living with the Bomb, visit Routledge Publications
  • Fueling Growth: the Energy Revolution and Economic Policy in Postwar Japan, East Asian Monograph Series no. 147, Harvard University Press, February 1990.

Edited Special Issues of Journal:

  • Guest Editor of special feature, with my introduction, “The Territory of Identity and Remembrance in Okinawa,” in Critical Asian Studies, 33.1 and 33.2. January and April 2001.
  • Guest Co-editor with Mark Selden and wrote introduction, special issue on "Textbook Nationalism in Comparative Context" Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 30.2 (Spring 1998).
  • Guest Editor, special issue on "Commemorating the Bomb: The Fiftieth Anniversary in the United States and Japan."  Also wrote "Introduction: The Bomb as History and Transnational Memory," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 27:2 (April-June 1995): 3-15.

Laura Hein’s Own Essays and Editor's Introductions at Asia-Pacific Journal:

Selected Recent Articles in refereed journals and chapters in refereed books:

  • Hein’s recent articles include “The Art of Bourgeois Culture in Kamakura,” in Japan from 1945: From Postwar to Post-Bubble, eds. Christopher Gerteis and Timothy George, London: Continuum Books, 2013.
  • “Raising Taxes for Democracy: The Japanese Policy Environment of the Shoup Mission” Co-authored with Mark Metzler, for Elliot Brownlee, ed., The Shoup Mission to Japan: A History of Transnational Tax Reform, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
  • “Reckoning with War in the Museum: Hijikata Teiichi at the Kamakura Museum of Modern Art “ Critical Asian Studies, 43.1 March 2011 was reprinted in Art and War in Japan and Its Empire, 1931-1960, Louisa MacDonald, Asato Ikeda, and Ming Tiempo, eds., vol. 5 of series on Japanese Visual Culture, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013.
  • “Revisiting America’s Occupation of Japan” Cold War History, 11.4, November 2011, 579-599. [Japanese-language version].
  • “Modern Art Patronage and Democratic Citizenship in Japan,” Journal of Asian Studies. 69.3 (August 2010): 821-841.

Teaching Interests

Undergraduate Teaching

  • Hein teaches several courses centered on modern Japan in its international context, such as The Modern Japanese City, and The World of Japan’s Empire as well as World War II in Asia.  She also teaches a Freshman Seminar on controversies over history called Museums, War Memorials and Commemorations. She zoom-taught a senior seminar on The Atomic Bomb, which focuses on both Japanese and American perspectives, in winter 2022 to a mixed group of students enrolled at NU and at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo.
  • Hein edited a series of free course readers on various Asia-related topics created from The Asia Pacific Journal which are available at its website.  She is also involved in curriculum development projects organized by colleagues beyond Northwestern, such as Bodies and Structures 2.0 and Popular Protest in Postwar Japan:
  • She also has published an article on teaching about difficult issues: “Tomiyama Taeko’s Art and Remembrance of the Asia Pacific War,” Education About Asia, 14. 3 (Winter 2009): 14-21

Graduate Teaching

  • As part of the East Asian History graduate group, Laura Hein trains students in modern Japanese history.  She also teaches a graduate methods course on Mapping the Discipline.  Please see the Graduate section of the Departmental webpage for recent information on students. 

Recent Awards and Honors

  • 2015-2016 Centenary Fellow, SOAS, University of London.
  • 2014-2017 Osaka University Specially Appointed Professor of Research (One month per year).
  • 2013 Northwestern Panhellenic Association Faculty Appreciation Award.
  • 2012, Edwin McClellan Fellow, Yale University 2012.
  • 2011 Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo Visiting Research Professor.
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