Member of the Week: Koji Hirata

Koji HirataKoji Hirata

PhD Candidate

Department of History, Stanford University

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?

Drawing on archival sources in Chinese, Japanese, and Russian, my dissertation, “Steel Metropolis: Industrial Manchuria and the Making of Chinese Socialism, 1909–1964,” tells the story of the rise and fall of the largest steel enterprise in China under Mao’s rule (1949-1976), Anshan Steel and Iron Works, and its urban base, Anshan City, in Manchuria (Northeast China). Particularly intriguing to me is the transnational character of this showcase of Mao’s “socialist industrialization,” with whose construction Japanese engineers, Soviet advisors, and Chinese experts from the pre-Communist regime were deeply involved.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

I taught introductory classes on modern Chinese history, modern Japanese history, and world history of science as a teaching assistant. The experience reminds me to think about how my local research matters in the contexts of national and international history. This is especially important to me, given that one of the most frequent questions I receive from my interviewees from the city is: “Why are you studying such a minor place?”

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

I am excited for Isabella Jackson’s forthcoming book, Shaping Modern Shanghai: Colonialism in China’s Global City. It will be published by Cambridge University Press in the autumn. This will show how global connections of people, goods, and thoughts shaped what has been called China’s “most modern” city.

What advice do you have for graduate students preparing a dissertation project related to urban history or urban studies?

I think studying a city shows us the complexity and contingency of history. In my own research I am fascinated by the contrast between the high modernist visions of city planners and the rather chaotic process of urban formation on the ground. This helped me feel better about the gap between my dissertation writing plan and its real process.

What is your favorite city, and why?

Shanghai. Where else on earth can you sit at Starbucks, view the latest Hollywood movie, see French colonial-style architecture, and pay a pilgrimage to the building where the Chinese Communist Party was first established within a walking distance?

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