AHA Member Spotlight: Jeffrey G. Carter

AHA Staff | Dec 3, 2014

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Jeffrey G. Carter is a professor of international studies at Tokai University, Kanagawa-ken, Japan. He lives in Tokyo, Japan, and has been a member since 2003. MS_Carter

Alma maters: BA, history, Oregon State University, 1973; MA in history and Certificate TESL, Portland State University, 1983; PhD work, University of Southern California, 1987-88

Fields of interest: international studies, ethnicity, current events and their historical backgrounds, economic crisis, revolutions

When did you first develop an interest in history?

As a child, I was fascinated by the American, French, and Russian Revolutions; the violent ends of elite systems that fell out of touch with the wider social conditions and changing times.

What projects are you working on currently? 

As a native English speaker at a Japanese university, much of my time has been used to attempt to manage the department’s required English course, which depends on the cooperation of the Independent Foreign Language Center. This requires all the stamina and fortitude of the Light Brigade, with results perhaps not entirely unlike them.

I am also working on intercultural communications as well as international issues. I have to keep up with current events, and so, I work to inform Japanese students to have some appreciation of the conditions that have led up to what we experience and witness in the world today.

Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?

To some degree, yes, I love history, but I deal heavily with current events. As a result, I work more to make the current more comprehensible to students, most of whom have little understanding of today’s world events. I work to help them learn that today grows from past experience. Japanese students, like so many others, often view the socio-political world of today as somewhat “static.” I try to help them understand that current events grow from previous socio-political experiences. In my opinion, very many Japanese students tend to be somewhat “living for today” and mixing that with the now traditional expectation to get a lifetime job. To me, this seems to limit many young people’s interest or enthusiasm for deeper understanding of the world. I hope the international studies students are more open to learning about how the world came to be the way it is, and how the past affects the future. If they have a deeper understanding of how today’s world has been created, and why certain current events happen, I hope they will have a better understanding of their own places in the world.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? 

Jared Diamond: The World Until Yesterday, Collapse, and Guns, Germs and Steel; Typecasting by Stuart Ewen and Elizabeth Ewen; House of Debt by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi; Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

What do you value most about the history profession?  

Perspective. 

Why did you join the AHA? 

I love history.

Other than history, what are you passionate about? 

I am very interested in development issues, and have taken students to South Africa for orphan care and community support experiences, and recently returned from a trip with students to look at sustainable development and social issues in Cambodia.

Any final thoughts?

I have lived in Japan for quite some time, and I have great appreciation for Japan, its culture, and its kindness to me. I have had great adventures taking trips to South Africa, especially Kwa Zulu Natal, to work with student volunteers for AIDS orphan care and poverty relief. Recently the work in Cambodia was very exciting for all of those who went. Japan’s universities and society are experiencing new challenges with the declining population and economic shifts. I am always impressed by both the stoicism that is apparent in public life, and the enthusiasm and joyfulness of people in their private lives. Japan has been good to me, and I have learned a lot here. I only hope I have contributed something to it in return.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.


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