Jennifer Robertson is Professor Emerita (as of January 2020), Departments of Anthropology and the History of Art, and the Penny W. School of Art & Design, and Affiliate Professor, Robotics Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is also Affiliate Professor, Departments of Anthropology and Japan Studies, University of Washington, Seattle.
Robertson earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University in 1985 (M.A. 1983), where she earned a B.A. in the History of Art in 1975. She also earned an M.A. in Asian Studies from the University of Hawai’i, Manoa, in 1977, and was a Visiting Scholar at the Tōyō Bunka Kenkyūjo (Research Institute for Oriental Cultures), Gakushūin University, Tokyo, 1978-1981. The recipient of many fellowships and awards, she was an Invited Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin, 1996-1997) and a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2011-2012). ACLS, SSRC, NEH, Japan Foundation, Abé Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and Fulbright are among her other fellowships.
Robertson is the originator and General Editor of COLONIALISMS, a (now closed) book series from the University of California Press. Books in the series explore the historical realities, current significance, and future ramifications of imperialist practices with origins and boundaries outside of “the West.” Formerly Japan Editor of Critical Asian Studies, she now serves on the Editorial Board (http://criticalasianstudies.org).
A historical anthropologist/anthropological historian, her seven books and over ninety articles and chapters address a wide spectrum of interdisciplinary subjects ranging from the 17th century to the present. Topics include nativist and social rectification movements, agrarianism, sex and gender systems and ideologies, mass and popular culture, nostalgia and internationalization, urbanism, the place of Japan in Anthropology, sexuality and suicide, theater and performance, votive and folk art, imperialism and colonialism, eugenics and bioethics, and technology and robotics. Robertson’s publications have been translated into German, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on anthropological history, theories, and methods; non-western colonialisms; art, identity, and anthropology; bio-art; human-robot interactions; image-based ethnography and visual literacy; mass and popular cultures; ethnic diversity in Japan; sex, gender and sexuality; and Japanese culture and society, among other subjects.
Robertson resides in Seattle and is currently researching, writing, and editing articles on the cultural history of Japanese eugenics; art, science, and technology; sex-gender systems; and the political economy of robotics in Japan and elsewhere. Her newest book is Robo Sapiens Japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family and the Japanese Nation (University of California Press, 2018); a Korean edition is forthcoming in 2023 and a Japanese edition is in progress. Although her primary area specialty is Japan, where she has lived for over two decades, Robertson has also worked in Sri Lanka (1982-1992) and since 1997 has been working in Israel as well. In addition to her academic work, she makes collages, watercolors, serigraphs, ceramics, and oil paintings (www.biwahamistudio.com).
(I acknowledge and respect the Coast Salish, Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Stillaguamish, and Suquamish peoples on whose traditional territory the community of West Seattle now stands, and whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.)
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