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Jessamyn Abel

Jessamyn Abel

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and History

201C Old Botany
Office Phone: (814) 865-3931


  1. PhD, Columbia University, 2004
  2. MIA, Columbia University, 1997
  3. BA, Princeton University, 1992


I am Assistant Professor in Asian Studies and History, and I have served as the Asian Studies Director of Undergraduate Studies since 2014.  My research focus is on modern Japan, with particular interests in cultural history, transportation technology, and international relations.  I am currently working on a book-length research project titled Speeding Bullet: A Cultural History of “The World’s Fastest Train, which focuses on the opening of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, Japan’s first bullet train, in terms of space, speed, identity, and international relations.  My first book The International Minimum: Japan’s Global Engagement in the Twentieth Century (University of Hawai’i Press, 2015) examines the transwar development of Japanese internationalism.  Other publications include articles on the Tokyo Olympics, cultural diplomacy during World War II, and the history of whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries.  In teaching, I enjoy bringing globally contextualized views of Japan and Asia into the classroom. 

Recent Publications:

The International Minimum: Creativity and Contradiction in Japan’s Global Engagement, 1933-1964. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015.

“Cultural Internationalism and Japan’s Wartime Empire.” Tumultuous Decade: Japan’s Challenge to the International System, 1931-41. Eds. Tosh Minohara and Masato Kimura. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (2013). 

“Japan’s Sporting Diplomacy: The 1964 Tokyo Olympiad.” The International History Review (June 2012), 1-18. 

"When Athletes Are Diplomats: Competing for World Opinion at the Tokyo Olympiads.”  The East Asian Olympiads 1934-2008: Building Bodies and Nations in Japan, Korea, and China.  Eds. William M. Tsutsui and Michael Baskett.  Folkestone, UK: Global Oriental, 2011.

“The Ambivalence of Whaling: Conflicting Cultures in Identity-Formation.” JAPANimals: History and Culture in Japan's Animal Life. Eds. Gregory M. Pflugfelder and Brett L. Walker. Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies 52. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2005. 

Awards and Service:

Center for Humanities and Information Faculty Fellow (Spring 2016)

NEAC-AAS, Short-term Research Travel to Japan Grant (Summer 2015).

Japan Foundation Short-Term Research Fellowship (Summer 2013).

Twentieth Century Japan Research Award, Miller Center for Historical Studies, Univ. of Maryland (Spring 2013)

Harvard-Yenching Travel Grant, Harvard University (2012)

Kent Forster Memorial Fund Award, Pennsylvania State University (2011)

Advanced Research Fellow, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, Harvard University (2008-2009)

Japan Foundation Short-Term Research Fellowship (2008) 

Recent Courses:

ASIA 405Y - Seminar in Asian Studies

ASIA 476 - Technology & Society in Modern Asia ASIA 489 

ASIA 489 - (HIST 489, PL SC 486) International Culture in East Asia

ASIA (HIST) 493 - Japan in the World

ASIA100 - What is Asia?

HIST172 - Survey of Japanese Civilization

HIST481 - Modern Japan Since 1800

Research Interests:

History of technology, transportation and travel, international relations, imperialism, and sports