Two Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences faculty were recently awarded National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowships. Dr. Alex Bay (History) was awarded a $60,000 NEH Division of Research Programs Fellowship for Advanced Social Science Research on Japan, and Dr. Vivian Yan-Gonzalez (Asian American Studies) was awarded a $60,000 NEH Division of Research Programs Fellowship.
The Fellowships for Advanced Social Science Research on Japan program is a joint activity of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission (JUSFC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The goals of the program are to promote Japan studies in the United States, to encourage U.S.-Japanese scholarly exchange, and to foster the next generation of Japan scholars in the United States.
Dr. Bay will spend the 2025-26 academic year researching and writing “From Cholera to COVID-19: A History of Hygiene in Modern Japan,” a book on Japan’s construction and popularization of a culture of hygiene, based on its responses to public health crises from 1858 to 2020.
Japan achieved disease prevention without nationwide sewer systems (which were built later in the 1970s), and its conclusions promise to inform the ongoing challenge of how to deliver health and sanitation to one-quarter of the world’s population that does not have access to flush toilets, sewer systems, or daily sanitation facilities. Bay’s book will be an interdisciplinary case study of how policy, education, and the medical marketplace were aligned to create hygienic modernity and will serve as the first English-language book to examine the history of Japanese hygiene from a medical, environmental, and material-culture perspective.
“Because of the outstanding support of Wilkinson College, especially the Dean and Allison Devries, I was able to submit a strong proposal and was selected for a Japan-US Friendship Commission-based NEH award. I am very excited to make substantial progress on my second book,” said Dr. Bay.
NEH Fellowships are competitive awards granted to individual scholars pursuing projects that embody exceptional research, rigorous analysis, and clear writing. Applications must clearly articulate a project’s value to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both.
Dr. Yan-Gonzalez will spend the 2025-26 academic year researching and writing “Impossible Citizens: A History of Asian American Conservatives and Republicans, 1882-1988,” a book on conservative politics among Chinese and Japanese Americans in the 20th century. The book explores how Asian Americans grappled with their status as racialized immigrant communities as they engaged with the American political system. It traces the emergence and impact of the first cohort of Chinese and Japanese American voters in California as they navigated their limited options and set the nationwide tone of Asian American politics.
“I’m thrilled to have received an NEH fellowship, and deeply grateful to everyone who has supported me along the way. It’s incredibly meaningful to have this recognition and support for my work, which I think indicates the enduring importance of Asian American history for understanding how race and ethnicity impact our democracy,” said Dr. Yan-Gonzalez
Congratulations, Dr. Bay and Dr. Yan-Gonzalez! We can’t wait to read your books!