Jeff Bayliss came to Trinity in 2004, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, and a PhD in History from Harvard University. He also earned a Master’s degree in Education from a Japanese national university, Miyagi University of Education (Miyagi kyôiku daigaku), and has spent over ten years living and working in Japan.
Jeff’s research focuses on minority groups and issues of minority identity in modern Japan. For his dissertation, he examined the manner in which Japan’s two largest minorities, the Koreans and the Burakumin, viewed and interacted with one another during the 1920s through the end of the Pacific War – years during which both groups faced severe discrimination from majority society. His research sheds new light on the way that similarly disadvantaged groups, facing similar kinds of discrimination at the hands of majority society, relate to one another, and how they cooperate – or fail to cooperate – in their respective struggles for social equality.
In his courses at Trinity, Jeff challenges his students to question common assumptions about Japanese culture and history, as well as the meanings of common ideas such as “premodern,” “modern,” “Asian,” and “Western.” By interrogating the labels and unquestioned assumptions that we often use in thinking about Japan and other Asian cultures and societies, students in his classes gain new insights into the dilemmas faced by people in these societies across history, and the rationale for the decisions they made in coping with them. Ultimately, his aim is to foster a sense of “historical imagination” in his students that will enable them to empathize with peoples of cultures, societies, and eras distant from our own, and envision themselves faced with similar situations. The understanding they can gain form doing so makes the peoples and cultures they study less exotic, and also gives them new perspectives from which to view their own society.