Department of History

Raja Adal

Faculty: Assistant Professor
Regional Field: Asia

Raja Adal is an Assistant Professor of modern Japanese history whose interests include comparative history, aesthetics, media studies, technology, and the digital humanities. His first book project is on the global history of drawing and music education.  Grounded in sources from Japan, Egypt, France, and Great Britain, it asks why schools across the world introduced art education starting in the late nineteenth century. The book traces the debates of educators who believed that in addition to cognitive concepts and moral norms, schools needed to instruct children through their senses and, in so doing, define the children’s pleasures and attractions. Beyond schools, the book argues that historical actors need to be understood as operating not only within an ideological field populated with ideas but within an aesthetic field consisting of desires. Professor Adal’s second book project looks at the aesthetics of written documents through a history of non-Latin character typewriters. If the Gutenberg Revolution made printed documents into the norm for published materials, this project asks how the ubiquity of print has defined our relationship to unpublished documents. It questions, for example, why official documents are typewritten and love letters handwritten; why scribes were almost always men while typists were almost always women; and why the Japanese typewriter with its more than two-thousand keys became such a commercial success.

Professor Adal will spend the 2015-2016 academic year as a Japan Foundation research fellow at the University of Tokyo. From there he will make his way to Pittsburgh via India, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Morocco, all places where he will be working on his second project on non-Latin typewriters as part of a Council of American Overseas Research Centers Multi-Country Research Fellowship. At Pitt he will teach classes on Japan, aesthetics, media, technology, and empire.

Professor Adal earned his PhD in history from Harvard University and his BA from the Johns Hopkins University.