Christopher Gerteis – Mobilizing Japanese Youth

Describe your book

Mobilizing Japanese Youth: The Cold War and the Making of the Sixties Generation (Cornell, 2021), examines the forces that shaped the political consciousness of Japanese youth who chose to engage in radical politics during the 1960s and 1970s. It unpacks how notions of class and gender shaped the discourses produced by, and for, young men and women of the ‘Sixties Generation’. It argues that intertwined by their similar uses of class and gender in political rhetoric, the machinations of both the far-left and far-right precipitated further levels of social alienation that defined the political consciousness of the ‘Sixties Generation’ well into the twenty-first century.

Why did you decide to publish it with a university press?

I have always published my most serious work with a university press. In part, because they are the gold standard for peer-reviewed, book-length scholarship. But also because I believe in their mission, which runs against a neo-liberalist tide insistent on profitability and immediate usefulness. University publishers embody the notion of ‘research for the sake of research’ — because it is knowledge that we desire, not bobbles and trinkets.

Do you enjoy the writing process?

No. To paraphrase Charles Bukowski: it hurts less to write than not write.

What is your favourite book? Why?

Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, a science fiction novel with a clear historical basis and a prophetic vision of the future. His writing is distinctly informed by one of the most well-read minds in the business.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to you?

Noel Q King (a scholar of African religions) gave me the best advice about being an historian: always cite your sources properly and accurately. It is hard advice to keep, but it rings true every time I write.

What piece of advice might you give to young academics looking to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t. Find your own path. You have your own unique way of thinking — everybody does — don’t waste time trying to recreate mine. Make yours better, better than mine. That would be the best way to succeed as a scholar.

Who inspires you?

Saigo Takamori, a nineteenth century revolutionary turned counter-revolutionary.

What’s next?

I am working on a book about the problems encountered when historical sites and events are repackaged as heritage. Heritage and history are not the same thing, but are instead gravely at odds with each other. I am writing about a series of social and political problems that have resulted from state and non-state actors’ attempts to build an heritage industry out of a very complex history of modernization and imperialism in East Asia. It should be fun.

Christopher Gerteis is Associate Professor of Contemporary Japanese History at SOAS University of London and Associate Professor and Academic Editor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. He is the author of Mobilizing Japanese Youth, published by Cornell University Press. Read his post for the Cornell blog: