AsPr Tomoko Akami


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Coming originally from the background of history of British imperial relations, she specializes in the field of history of international relations in Asia and the Pacific in the inter-war period. Using the case studies of people, organizations, and policies of Japan, she has been questioning certain assumptions in international history, which had been (and still are) written predominantly from Anglo-American perspectives.

Her works connect history with international relations and international law, and currently, she has been working in a few collaborative projects across these disciplines, such as those based in Germany, Denmark, Britain, Switzerland, and Japan. She has organized the CAP's annual symposium, 'The Landscape of Sovereignty in Asia and the Pacific', in 2014 with Prof T. Du Bois. In 2013-2015, she was one of the three editors of History Australia, along with  Professor Frank Bongiorno and Dr Alexander Cook (History Department, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences). Since 2005, she has been a board member of the Historical Association of Western Japan. In 2012-2013, she was Deputy Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies.

Career highlights: Grants: The ARC Discovery Grants (2020-2023), (2012–2014), (2002–2005), Japan Foundation Fellowship (2016-2017), Rockefeller Grants (2019, 2014, 1994), Toshiba Foundation Grant (2006–7), Daiwa Bank Grant (1994–6). Fellowship: Ritsumeikan (2019-2020), Gakushuin (2017, 2012), Heidelberg (2009). Research Associate: the Centre for the Study of Internationalism, Birkbeck University (2020-present), Research Institute of the Asia-Pacific, Waseda University (2017-present); Cluster of Excellence: Europe and Asia in a Global Context, University of Heidelberg (2009-2011).

Research interests

She is now working on her latest ARC Discovery Project, 'Towards a globalized history of international relations: a case of Japan'. It amis to question the orthodox understanding of history of IR that has been based on Euro-American experiences, by problematizing colonialism, and examining the genealogies of the knowledge of the 'International' (such as IR, International Law, International Studies), mainly focusing on experts in Japan and their interactions with their counterparts across the regions. It builds on her recent works on history of international law, as well as her collaborative works with experts of IR and International Law.

She is one of the scholars who began to regard the League of Nations as a harbinger of global governing norms for the following UN era, but she focuses on an often-neglected region, Asia, in this context. Her last ARC project on 'Empire and Global Health Governance', examined the League of Nations Health Organization's operations in Asia in the inter-war period. It built on her first book on the Institute of Pacific Relations (2002), which was an historical analysis of the role of non-governmental organizations and their experts in Asia and the Pacific in the inter-war period. Through these works, she has questioned the Westphalian model of international relations as an analytical base of inter-war international politics, as well as the national-international binary in examining internationalism. Instead, she has focused on the nexus of the nation-state and empire, explored the meaning of 'liberal empire' and inter-imperial/colonial cooperations in the formations of regional/international organizations and norms.

Her earlier ARC project also resulted in the two books on Japan's news agencies in foreign policy, 1870–1945 (2012, 2014). Both see the the development of telecommunication technology, mass-based politics and the emergence of international public opinion as three major global factors which influenced modern states' foreign policy and their institution making. The first volume deals with Japan's challenge to Reuters' news empire in Northeast Asia in 1870–1934, and questions an assumption of a sudden change of Japan's foreign policy in the early 1930s in a broader context of the development of its information policy. The second volume examines the roles of the Board of Information (1941–45) and the national/imperial news agency (Domei) in the making of Japan's total war state/emire in 1934–45. It questions the often assumed nature of the political regime of Japan in this war period, by showing these two organizations' activities not in the area of domestic thought control, but in the area of news propaganda and intelligence gathering and assessment for foreign policy.

Researcher's projects

2020-2023: ARC Discovery Project: Towards a globalized history of international relations: A theoretical interjection from the case of the first non-Euro-American modern power, Japan, 1860–1960

2012-2014: ARC Discovery Project: Politics of public health in the Asia-Pacific region: The League of Nations Health Organization and the Japanese Empire, 1921–1941

2002-2005: ARC Discovery Project: Japan's news agencies in foreign policy, 1870–1945



BA (Hiroshima), MA (Hiroshima), MA (Melbourne), PhD(ANU)

Expertise Areas

  • Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific
  • International Relations
  • Political Theory and Political Philosophy
  • Asian History


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