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Stefan Tanaka

Professor Emeritus

Stefan Tanaka is a historian who has worked on modern Japan. His earlier work focused on the ways that history, pasts, and time were configured to define Japan's world and itself. Recently that inquiry has shifted to history as a technology of communication. This shift to history as media opens an inquiry into different ways that historical knowledge, categories, and practices are both tied to particular literary systems and might change in the digital age. This interest has led to work in scholarly communication and the Digital Humanities. He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled, History without Chronology.
Ph.D. in Japanese History, University of Chicago (1986)


  • History without Chronology, Lever Press 2019. (Open Access)
  • New Times in Modern Japan, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.
  • Japan's Orient: Rendering Pasts into History, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993. Awarded John King Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association and named Outstanding Academic book by Choice.
  • In Korean as Ilbon dong-yanghak ui gujo. Translated by Yeongjae Bakb and DongjuHam. Munhak gwa jiseongsa: Seoul, 2004.

Selected Articles

  • "Japanese History and the Hegemony of Chronological Time,'' Czech Historical Review. In press.
  • "From the Margins: There must be more to history than logic,'' boundary2, In press.                         
  • "The Old and New of Digital History,'' History and Theory 61, no. 4 (2022).                        
  • "Asia: A Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness?'' boundary2, 46. 3 (August \2019): 23-45.
  • "Histoire mystique: temps, altérité, etrangeté.” (Mystic History: Time, Otherness, Spectres). In Michel de Certeau. Le voyage de luvre. Edited by Luce Giard. Centre Sevres. 2017
  • "Idō–1884 nen no taiheiyō sh ̄uhen ni okeru samazama na dekigoto." (Miscellaneous Happenings in and around the Pacific in 1884). In Kindai nihon to ajia: chiseitekiapurochi kara. Edited by Mitani Hiroshi and Hirose Midori. Bensei shuppan, 2016.
  • "History without Chronology," Public Culture, 28.1 (2016).
  • "Reconceiving Pasts in a Digital Age," Historein, 15.2 (2015): 21-29.
  • "Pasts in a Digital Age," Writing History in a Digital Age, edited by Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki, University of Michigan Press, 2013.
  • "Unification of Time and the Fragmentation of Pasts in Meiji Japan," Breaking up Time: Negotiating the Borders between Present, Past and Future, edited by Berber Bevernage and Chris Lorenz, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2013.
  • Axel Schneider and Stefan Tanaka. "The Transformation of History in China and Japan.'' Oxford History of History Writing, volume 4, edited by Stuart MacIntyre, Oxford: Oxford University Press, in press.
  • "Digital Media in History: Remediating Data and Narratives,'' Perspectives in History, May 2009.
  • "Time and the Paradox of the Orient,'' Toajia bunka kosho kenkyu, 4 (bessatsu) (3.2009):165-77.
  • "New Media and Historical Narrative: 1884 Japan,'' Performance Research, 11.4(2006): 95-104.
  • "Els Orients i l’Orient," Revista d’etnologia de Catalunya, 29 (Desembre 2006): 88-93.
  • "Objectivism and the Eradication of Critique in Japanese History,'' in H. D. Harootunian and Masao Miyoshi, eds. Learning Places: Area Studies, Colonial, Cultural, and Ethnic Studies, and Received Disciplines. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.
  • "Childhood: the Naturalization of Development into a Japanese Space,'' in Sally Humphreys, ed. Cultures of Scholarship. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.