Nathaniel Smith

Nathaniel Smith

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and East Asian Studies

Learning Services Building, Room 124

About Nathaniel Smith

Nathaniel M. Smith is an Associate Professor in the College and the Graduate School of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Please click your language of choice for his current faculty page in English or Japanese. Smith was part of the faculty at the University of Arizona from 2013-2021. 


Nathaniel M. Smith is a cultural anthropologist specializing in Japan. His research interests including political anthropology and nationalism, urban studies, sound and visual anthropology, music and youth culture, modern Japanese history and film, bicycle craftsmen, and the history of anthropology. His book manuscript, Uncivil Society: the Japanese Right the Politics of Futility, is an ethnography of the moral and social worlds of Japan’s prominent rightist activist groups and rightist activism as a cultural field and a mode of political subjectivity more generally. The manuscript argues that within anti-establishment right-wing activism modes of ambivalence and vehemence, practical and symbolic action, and large and small-scale histories inform the creation, deployment, and maintenance of new political identities that rely upon cultivating a feeling of embattlement even despite the increasing prominence of new nationalist movements in many democracies.

Drawing from this research, recent publications include “Facing the Nation: Sound, Fury, and Public Oratory among Japanese Right-Wing Groups,” a contribution to the edited volume Sound, Space, and Sociality in Modern Japan, a contribution to a special section on new forms of nationalism in Japan "Fights on the Right: Social Citizenship, Ethnicity, and Postwar Cohorts of the Japanese Activist Right," and a contribution to a special section on anti-multicultural discourse and online versus street-based activism in South Korea and Japan entitled "Vigilante Video: Digital Populism and Anxious Anonymity among Japan's New Netizens." He is a member of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation's US-Japan Network for the Future. In addition to doctoral training in anthropology, Smith holds an MA in East Asian Studies from Yale University, an MA in International Relations from Waseda University, and a BA in Foreign Language from the Department of Comparative Literature and Foreign Language at UC Riverside. 

Smith teaches courses on the anthropology, history, and cultural study of modern Japan, ranging from film, fashion, and visual culture, to war, nationalism, and social movements. Current courses include EAS 295: Japnese Film from the Inside Out, JPN 245: Anime and Japanese Visual Culture (Honors section available), JPN 345: Megacity Tokyo, EAS 466/566: Chinese and Japanese Nationalisms (cross-listed in Political Science), JPN 425/525: The Anthropology of Japan (cross-listed in Anthropology), Honors thesis advising, and independent study courses. 

During the 2019-2020 academic year, Nathaniel Smith will be a visiting scholar at Waseda University pursuing fieldwork funded by the Japan Foundation for his second book project: Kabukicho Renaissance: Multiculturalism, Marginality, and Urban Renewal in Tokyo.

Courses Taught

Anime and Japanese Visual Culture [JPN 245]

Japanese and Chinese Nationalism [EAS 466/566, POL 466/566]

Megacity Tokyo [JPN 345]

The Anthropology of Japan [JPN 425/525, ANTH 425/525]