Prof Rikki Kersten


Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Modern Japanese History; political thought; foreign policy, security policy, the US-Japan alliance, the US 'rebalancing' policy, Australia-Japan relations

Rikki is attracted to the intangible realm of political thought, particularly the history of political ideas in modern Japan. She aspires to communicate and analyse Japanese political thought for non-Japanese audiences, and to integrate Japanese thinking into global scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. She works extensively with primary sources in the vernacular. Her main areas of research interest are: democracy and fascism; debates over war apologies and war guilt in Japan; contemporary Japanese politics and foreign policy; historical and philosophical revisionism. Her second area of specialisation is Japanese security policy, including Australia-Japan security relations and the US-Japan alliance.

Researcher's projects

1. Japan's place in US global strategic thinking after the pivot, conducted under the auspices of the Endeavour Executive Award 2012 and the Harold White Fellowship at the National Library of Australia, 2013-14.

2. Japan's Strategic Dilemmas. Monograph. 2013-2014.

3. Broadening and deepening the Australia-Japan security relationship. Project conducted in conjunction with the Australian Department of Defence and the National Institute for Defence Studies Japan, 2012-2013.

4. Military Force as Social Good: the legacies of Operation Tomodachi. Project led by Prof Mark Mullins at the University of Auckland 2013-2014.

5. Turning to the nation in postwar Japan: tenko and transwar Japanese political thought. Monograph (ongoing)

6. Japanese Political Thought after WWII. Contribution to Routledge Handbook of Political Thought. 2014 - 2015.


BA (Adelaide), BA Hon (Adelaide) and DPhil (Oxon)


Rikki has been educated in Wollongong, Adelaide and Oxford, with plenty of long stays in Japan at various tertiary institutions along the way, notably at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Social Science, and Keio University. She spent five years in the Australian Foreign Service, completing a posting in the Political Section of the Australian Embassy in Tokyo, before returning to academic life. Rikki has taught modern Japanese history at Sydney and Leiden Universities, and has served as Research Manager and subsequently Director of the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific at the University of Sydney. She joined the ANU in 2006 as  Dean of the Faculty of Asian Studies.

Career highlights

Winning the VICI large research grant from the Netherlands Scientific Research Organization with Prof Axel Schneider in 2004 to research Historical Consciousness and the Future in China and Japan; founding the Modern East Asian Research Centre with Axel Schneider at the University of Leiden in 2005; founding the Australia-Netherlands Research Collaboration focussing on the study of Southeast Asia in 2006; posting to the Australian Embassy in Tokyo 1988 – 1991.

Expertise Areas

  • Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific
  • Studies of Asian Society
  • Asian History


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