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Dr. Laura Miller

Eiichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Endowed Professor of Japanese Studies and Professor of Anthropologylau

Phone: 314-516-7246
Email: millerlau@umsl.edu 

Education: Dr. Laura Miller received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1988. She came to UMSL in August 2010 to fill the Endowed Chair in Japanese Studies.

Research and Teaching:  Dr. Miller is an internationally prominent scholar of Japan studies and linguistic anthropology. She has done fieldwork in Moscow and in Japan. After graduation from the University of California, Santa Barbara with BA degrees in Anthropology and Asian Studies, Dr. Miller taught English and supervised an English language program for Teijin Educational Systems in Osaka, Japan (1977-1981). She began teaching college-level anthropology in the 1980s, and has been a faculty member at several universities.

Dr. Miller received a Japan Foundation Research Fellowship for a new project focused on Himiko (175~248 CE), a shaman queen described only briefly by Chinese historians. Dr. Miller will conduct fieldwork in Nara Prefecture and Shiga Prefecture during 2015 fall semester, documenting how Himiko is commodified and objectified in local communities, where she buttresses tourism and civic pride. The research will be used in her forthcoming book, Diva Nation: Female Icons from Japanese Cultural History, co-edited with Rebecca Copeland.

Professional Activities: Dr. Miller has been active as a leader in many professional organizations, including her elected roles as the President of the Society for East Asian Anthropology, American Anthropological Association (2000 to 2005), and the Northeast Asia Council, Association for Asian Studies (2007 to 2010). She was the Chair and Program Director of the Midwest Japan Seminar (2000 to 2003). Dr. Miller has served on the editorial board of several academic journals. Most recently, she joined other anthropologists in helping to launch a new blog site, PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity, dedicated to making anthropological knowledge more accessible to the general public.

Dr. Miller has published more than sixty articles and book chapters on Japanese culture and language, including topics such as English loanwords in Japanese, the wizard boom, girls’ slang, and print club photos.

Some recent peer-reviewed journal articles are  “Linguistic folk theories and foreign celebrities of the past,” Japanese Language and Literature (2015); “Rebranding Himiko, the Shaman Queen of Ancient History;” Mechademia: An Annual  Forum for Anime, Manga and the Fan Arts (2014); “The divination arts in girl culture,” Capturing Contemporary Japan: Differentiation and Uncertainty (University of Hawai’i Press,  2014).  Her 2004 article, “Those naughty teenage girls: Japanese Kogals, slang, and media assessments” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, has been one of the most frequently accessed articles in the American Anthropological Association’s publishing database. You can find her articles here.

Dr. Miller is the author of Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics (University of California Press, 2006)

Together with Jan Bardsley, she is co-editor of two books: Bad Girls of Japan (Palgrave, 2005)

Manners and Mischief: Gender, Power, and Etiquette in Japan  (University of California Press, 2011)

Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan, was co-edited with Freedman and Yano (Stanford University Press, 2013)