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People involved in "The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East Asia, 1945-1965" (ERC Starting Grant)


From left to right: Dr. Lily Chang, Dr. Deokhyo Choi, Jurei Yada, Dr. Barak Kushner, Aiko Otsuka. Scroll down for detailed profiles.

Principal Investigator



Dr. Barak Kushner

University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese History

Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge

Personal webpage:

Barak Kushner teaches modern Japanese history in the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (formerly the Faculty of Oriental Studies) at the University of Cambridge and has a PhD in History from Princeton University. He was recently awarded a 2012 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship which he will use to complete his book on Japanese War Crimes Trials in China. In the summer of 2008 he was a visiting scholar at Nanjing University (China) and during 2009 he was a visiting scholar at Waseda University (Japan). He was a 2008 Abe Fellow and conducted research concerning "Cold War Propaganda in East Asia and Historical Memory."

The Thought War, Kushner's first book, delves into the history of wartime Japanese propaganda. His second book, entitled Slurp! A culinary and social history of ramen - Japan's favorite noodle soup, (published by Brill/ Global Oriental, 2012) focuses on food and history. He is also working on a third book that analyzes the postwar adjudication of Japanese war crimes in China, tentatively titled, "Men to Devils and Devils to Men": Japanese War Crimes and Cold War Sino-Japan Relations (1945-1965).


Research Fellows



Dr. Lily Chang

Research Fellow

Lily Chang is a historian of East Asia interested in the intersections between law and society, the history of childhood, and the movement of ideas across boundaries. Prior to joining the programme, she served as the Henry Lumley Research Fellow in History at Magdalene College, Cambridge and remains as a fellow of the college. She also teaches and supervises topics in world history for the History Faculty, and is a research associate with the Centre for History and Economics in Cambridge.

She was awarded a DPhil in History and an MSt in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford. She also holds an AM in Regional Studies-East Asia from Harvard University, and a BA in East Asian Studies (with high honours) and Politics from Oberlin College.  Her DPhil thesis, which is currently being revised into a monograph, examined how the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) served as a catalyst to the legal construction of ideas about children, especially in Japanese-occupied areas of wartime China.

Lily joins the programme with a new research project entitled, “Japan’s Elusive Imperial Reach: Humanitarian Thinking and Human Conflict in the Aftermath of the Tokyo Trials.” Drawing upon sources in Japanese, Chinese, English, and Dutch, her research seeks to explore how the judicial legacy of the Tokyo Trials served as a distinct yet crucial lens to problematise and re-evaluate Japan’s post-war pacifism. Seeking to bridge our understanding of the legacies of war and empire between East and Southeast Asia through the lens of law and humanitarian thinking, it examines how the Tokyo Trials served to extend the reach of Japan’s imperial past in the strongest yet most elusive fashion; namely, through the shaping of international law and the transmission of legal thought in areas that were formerly occupied by the Japanese during the war (with particular attention paid to the former Dutch Indies).

Postdoctoral Fellows




Dr. Deokhyo Choi

PhD in History, Cornell University

Postdoctoral fellow at the Project from September 15, 2013

Deokhyo Choi is an ethnic Korean-born in Japan (third-generation zainichi Korean). He earned his BA and MA in Tokyo (Rikkyo University and the University of Tokyo) and his PhD in the United States (Cornell University).

He is currently working on his book project, Crucible of the Post-Empire: Decolonization, Race, and Cold War Politics in U.S.-Japan-Korea Relations, 1945-1952. His work critically engages with the reconceptualization of decolonization and the Cold War in occupied-Japan. Based on multi-national archival research in Japan, South Korea and United States, Deokhyo demonstrates that the formation of a postwar Japan under U.S./Allied occupation was deeply intertwined with the political dynamics of decolonizing Korea under U.S. and Soviet occupations.

For his second book project, Deokhyo expands the geographical scope of his current in-depth exploration of the aftermath of the Japanese empire. In his new project titled Through the Prism of Small Islands: A Comparative History of Cold War Violence in Okinawa, Cheju, and Taiwan, he uses a historical comparative method in order to understand the tragedies and people’s experiences of the historical conjuncture of the post-empire in East Asia – a critical time period when the region became the front line of internationalized civil war and U.S.-Soviet global Cold War interventionism. The Cold War was not simply about U.S.-Soviet superpower rivalry or international ideological warfare in East Asia.  It was also about how to define new political and social citizenship in former metropolitan and colonial societies.  He examined how state violence became a common social phenomenon in the process of new citizen- and subject-making in three islands, Okinawa and Cheju under U.S. military occupation and Taiwan under the mainland Chinese Nationalist Party regime.

More about Deokhyo's work:


PhD Students 



Aiko Otsuka

PhD Student at the Project from October 1, 2013

Aiko received her BA in Liberal Arts with International Studies from Soka University of America in 2005, and her MA  in East Asian Studies, with Japan-area specialization from the University of Arizona in 2007. For her MA degree, Aiko studied modern Japanese history from a comparative perspective and completed a thesis on the 1930s intellectuals' views on China.

Within the research project "The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East Asia, 1945-1965," Aiko aims to examine the roles and issues of war crimes trials in postwar East Asia, illuminating its cross-border dynamics. In her research, Aiko will look into various actors of the trials, such as the Japanese government, local officials, company executives, bereaved families, as well as collaborators to the Japanese military. She will also explore how the Japanese government reacted to each actor in relation to their war responsibility.





Jurei Yada

PhD Student at the Project from October 1, 2013

Jurei Yada received a BA in History (Honours) from the University of Oxford in 2012, where she focused her research on modern Japanese history and the early Cold War. Her undergraduate thesis, “The International Press as Mediator: the Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crimes Trials, 1945-48”, explored the functional aspect of the trials in Germany and Japan from the perspective of allied foreign policy, and also examined the role of the press in establishing postwar narratives of the war. Jurei is currently finishing an MSc in Asian Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where she specialized in East Asian international relations, the international politics of China, and the society and politics of Japan, Korea and Taiwan. She has also studied at Sofia University in Tokyo (Japan), and Yonsei University in Seoul (Korea), and enjoys travelling and deepening her knowledge of East Asian cultures and history.

Within the current research project, Jurei will further her research into the Tokyo trial and the role of the media. Her other research interests include nationalism in East Asia, memory and reconciliation in East Asia and Europe, and Japan’s bilateral relations.

Visiting Scholars



Dr. James Llewelyn

Visiting scholar at the project from April 8 to June 25, 2013

James Llewelyn presently works for the Australian government and manages the official bilateral science and research relationship with Japan, prior to which he was a historical researcher for the Department of Defence.

James has an ongoing and genuine interest in post-war Japan and Southeast Asia – particularly, Japan’s policy of ‘economic cooperation’ and use of ODA as a diplomatic and strategic tool in Southeast Asia. James is also interested in the longstanding strategic rivalry between Japan and China for influence in Southeast Asia.

For the project "The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East Asia, 1945-1965," James is writing an article entitled: "The nexus of politics and economics – the evolution of Japanese post-war diplomacy and Japan’s return to Southeast Asia 1952-1979."


Research Assistant


Daphne (Shu Chun) To

Research Assistant

Daphne obtained her Master of Arts degree in International Journalism at the City University London. As an undergraduate, Daphne studied English for Professional Communication at the City University of Hong Kong. In addition to her academic background in media and communication studies, she completed her Legal Practice Course and Graduate Diploma in Law at BPP Law School.

As a Research Assistant at the University of Cambridge, Daphne has assisted Dr. Barak Kushner in various academic projects which included his book Men to Devils and Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Cold War Sino-Japan Relations (1945-1965) (forthcoming from Harvard University Press, 2014). 

As a journalist, Daphne contributed to the book about Chinese politics Kurenai no tō: Shū Kin Pei taisei tanjō no uchimaku (紅の党 習近平体制誕生の内幕) published by Asahi Shimbun (2012). She conducted journalistic research for the BBC and the Television of Spain (Asia Pacific) about the region, including the BBC’s award-winning programme Holidays in the Danger Zone: Places That Don't Exist. She has also written and contributed to a number of news stories about Greater China for different Asian media.



Administrative Staff



Jill Cooper

Project Administrator

Jill has worked for the University of Cambridge since 2006 and has been involved in this project since its inception in 2013. She also works as Senior Accounts Clerk in the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies.