Eiko Maruko Siniawer

Eiko Maruko Siniawer

Class of 1955 Memorial Professor of History and Chair of Asian Studies Program

Hollander Hall Rm 330

On Leave Spring 2020


B.A. Williams College (1997)
M.A. Harvard University, Regional Studies East Asia (1999)
Ph.D. Harvard University, History (2003)

Current Committees

  • Committee on Priorities and Resources, Chair


Eiko Maruko Siniawer, Professor of History, specializes in the history of modern Japan.  Her first book (Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists) examines issues of political violence and democracy through a focus on violence specialists, or the professionally violent.  The book explores the ways in which ruffianism became embedded and institutionalized in the practice of modern Japanese politics and argues that for much of Japan’s modern history, political violence was so systemic and enduring that Japan can be considered a violent democracy.

Her second book (Waste) is about conceptions of waste and wastefulness in Japan from the 1940s through the present.  By considering shifts in what was considered to be waste and wasteful (be it resources, time, or material objects), her work explores people’s struggles to find value, meaning, and happiness in a post-industrialist, capitalist, consumerist, and affluent Japan.

Professor Siniawer teaches a variety of courses on Japanese history, including surveys of early modern and modern Japanese history, a first-year seminar on the Japanese empire, a 300-level course on U.S.-Japan relations, and an advanced tutorial on war memory. She also offers an introductory-level tutorial on Korean history, a 300-level course on the history of various kinds of panics, and a History 301.

She holds a Ph.D. in history and an A.M. in East Asian studies both from Harvard University, and a B.A. in history from Williams College.

Selected Publications


Waste: Consuming Postwar Japan (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018).

Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists: The Violent Politics of Modern Japan, 1860-1960 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008).
『悪党・ヤクザ・ナショナリスト: 近代日本の暴力政治』朝日新聞社, 2020.

Articles & Edited Volumes:

“Discarding Cultures: Social Critiques of Food Waste in an Affluent Japan.” In Devouring Japan: Global Perspectives on Japanese Culinary Identity, ed. Nancy K. Stalker. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

“‘Affluence of the Heart’: Wastefulness and the Search for Meaning in Millennial Japan.” The Journal of Asian Studies (February 2014).

Editor, Environmental History: A Course Reader (The Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus, 2012).

“Befitting Bedfellows: Yakuza and the State in Modern Japan.”  The Journal of Social History 45, no. 3 (Spring 2012).  Reprinted in The Hidden History of Crime, Corruption and States, ed. Renate Bridenthal.  New York: Berghahn Books, 2013.

“Liberalism Undone: Discourses on Political Violence in Interwar Japan.” Modern Asian Studies 45, no. 4 (July 2011).

“Organized Crime in Japan.” In Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World, ed. Peter N. Stearns. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

“Mediated Democracy: Yakuza and Japanese Political Leadership.” In Organized Crime and the Challenge to Democracy, ed. Felia Allum and Renate Siebert. London: Routledge, 2003.

Research Interests

Modern Japanese Political, Social, and Cultural History
History of Waste and Wastefulness in Modern Japan
Modern History of Political Violence
History of Organized Crime

Theses Advised

Kar Yern Chin ’18We Are What We Makan: Conceptions of Malaysian Food Practices, 1950s-1970s

Benjamin Williams ’18Excess of Love: An Oral History of the Kachin Independence Organization

Courtney Fields ’17Jesus in the Far East: Christian Missions and Japanese Response, 1549-1600

Miho Sakuma ’15Reviving, Modifying, and Inventing: Liberal Arts Education in Japan’s Lost Decades

Sharona Bollinger ’14 Shadow of the Beast:  Complexities and Legacies of Godzilla in Japan and the United States

Sara Kang ’14 Contested Memory:  Struggles of the 1990s in Post Cold War Okinawa

Leo Obata ’14 Blueprint for a New Vision:  The Past, Present and Future of War Museums in Japan

Sungik Yang ’13Rioters, Victims, or Heroes:  Transforming Narratives about the Gwangju Uprising

Lindsey Jones ’10Hidden Hydra: The Development and Decline of American Mafia Power

Megan Brankley ’08 – Re-Imagining an Indonesian National History after the New Order
(with Anne Reinhardt)

Program Connections at Williams

Asian Studies