Researcher, not a Japanophile

UNSW Canberra Academics Involved: 
Professor Aurelia George Mulgan

After a career spent in research or teaching positions at major universities around the globe, including in New Zealand, Japan, America and the UK, Professor Aurelia George Mulgan officially retired in 2009. But the academic world wasn’t yet ready to let this Japan expert go.  

George Mulgan has, since 2005, been awarded several three-year Australian Research Council Discovery Project grants for work on Japanese political economy and the geopolitical and security implications of Japan’s trade agreements. Two of these grants have come since her retirement, a powerful indicator of the esteem in which she is held by those in academic and government arenas.  

During her career, George Mulgan wrote numerous reports and submissions for government and also consulted for numerous bodies, including Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Norinchukin Bank, the Research Institute for Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).  

Her work has attracted many awards, including an Ohira Memorial Prize for a book on Japanese agricultural politics, the J.G. Crawford Award for outstanding work on Japanese political economy and the Toshiba Prize, in 2010, for the best article published in the British Association of Japanese Studies journal, Japan Forum. She has written seven, single-authored books on Japan.  

“Actually, I’m becoming more and more of a rare bird,” George Mulgan says. “Amongst academics working on East Asia, research interest has swung towards China and away from Japan. Even the teaching of the Japanese language has declined enormously, meaning the number of foreigners speaking the language has dropped off.”  

What does this mean? More academics in the field are likely to be Japanophiles, attracted to the field of study because of their love of all things Japanese. This may likely lead to a bias in research as it means academics come from a position of opinion rather than from one of scholarly neutrality.  

“They’re much more likely to be apologists,” she says. “That’s a critical point. I began researching Japan not reluctantly, but actually I could have been researching anything. My work developed momentum and so I kept going. I achieved a few things and earned recognition. My work was valued partly because of what I am not. I am not a Japanophile – I am a researcher.”