Susan L. Burns

Associate Professor of History, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College
PhD 1994 University of Chicago

Social Science Research Building, room 221 – Office
(773) 702-8934 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Field Specialties

Early modern and modern Japanese intellectual and cultural history; medicine and the body; gender and women's history; law and gender


My work focuses on Japan's long nineteenth century, the period from the late Tokugawa period to the end of Meiji. My first book, Before the Nation, examines the Kokugaku discourse of the late Tokugawa period and explored how "Japan" was constituted as a form of cultural and social identity by nativist scholars. My second project, still in progress, explores the medical culture of the nineteenth century and analyzes the impact of the rise of "Western medicine" and "public health" upon conceptions of the body and subjecthood. Recently, I have turned to explore the intersection of medical and legal discourse in the formation of modern conceptions of gender. In a series of conference papers, I have taken up issues such as abortion, sexual violence, and the formation of "family law."


Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community in Early Modern Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

Guest editor, special issue on "Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Context of Modernity." US-Japan Women’s Journal 24 (Winter 2003).

"Making Illness Identity: Writing 'Leprosy Literature' in Modern Japan." Japan Review 16 (2003)

"From 'Leper Villages' to Leprosariums: Public Health, Medicine, and the Culture of Exclusion in Modern Japan." In Isolation: Polices and Practices of Exclusion. Edited by Alison Bashford and Carolyn Strange. London: Routledge, 2003.

"The Body as Text: Confucianism, Reproduction, and Gender in Early Modern Japan." In Rethinking Confucianism: Past and Present in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Edited by Benjamin Elman, Herman Ooms, and John Duncan. Los Angeles: UCLA Asia Pacific Monograph Series, 2002.

"Constructing the National Body: Public Health and the Nation in Meiji Japan." In Nation Work: Asian Elites and National Identities. Edited by Timothy Brook and André Schmid, 17–50. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

"Bodies and Borders: Syphilis, Prostitution, and the Nation in Nineteenth Century Japan." U.S.-Japan Women's Journal 15 (December 1998): 3-30.

"Contemplating Places: The Hospital as Modern Experience in Meiji Japan." In New Directions in the Study of Meiji Japan. Edited by Helen Hardacre and Adam L. Kern, 702-718. Leiden: E. J. Brill Publishers, 1997.