My specialization is in premodern Japanese cultural history particularly "traditional" dietary cultures. As a historian, I am interested in how groups, institutions, and governments attempt to designate normative practices by appealing to what is identified as “tradition,” the dynamic array of customs, familial claims, rituals, and artifacts, which are created, repurposed and displayed in exercises of power by professions and to serve the ideology of the state. Scholars have viewed “tradition” as a product of the rise of the modern nation. However, my training as a historian of premodern Japan enables me to investigate in the longue durée how the invention of tradition is part of a longer historical strategy in the construction of authority. My research documents the development of arts, ideas, and customs synonymous with national culture today and I endeavor to restore contingency, change, conflict, and heterogeneity into these otherwise hegemonic narratives of “tradition.” I am currently writing a book on the history of food in Japan and the chapter on medieval culture for the New Cambridge History of Japan.
At the University of Kansas I teach courses in premodern Japanese history and Japanese dietary cultures including "History of Sushi" and "Beer, Sake, and Tea: Beverages in Japanese History."
- Premodern Japan
- Japanese dietary cultures
- Premodern Japan
- Japanese dietary cultures
Rath, E. (2016). Japan's Cuisines: Food, Place and Identity, London: Reaktion Books.
Rath, E. C. (2016). Hell's Kitchen and the Joy of Cooking: Culinary Themes in Kumano Mandala. Impressions, 106-127.
Rath, E. C. (2015). The Magic of Japanese Rice Cakes. In C. Helstosky (Ed.), Routledge History of Food (pp. 3-18). New York: Routledge Press.
Rath, E. C. (2015). The Invention of Local Food. In J. Farrer (Ed.), The Globalization and Asian Cuisine: Transnational Networks and Culinary Contact Zones (pp. 145-64). Palgrave Macmillan Publishers.
Goldstein, D. & Rath, E. (Eds.). (2015). Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets (D. Goldstein & E. Rath, Eds.). Oxford University Press.
Rath, E. C. (2015). Sex and Sea Bream: Food and Prostitution in Hishikawa Moronobu’s 'A Visit to the Yoshiwara'. In . (Ed.), Seduction: Japan's Floating World: The John C. Weber Collection ed. Laura W. Allen (pp. 28-43). San Francisco, CA: Asian Art Museum .
Rath, E. C. (2013). The Tastiest Dish in Edo: Print, Performance, and Culinary Culture in Early Modern Japan. East Asian Publishing and Society, 3(2), 184-214.
Rath, E. C. (2010). Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan, University of California Press.
Rath, E. C. (2010). Japanese Foodways Past and Present (E. C. Rath & S. Assmann, Eds.). University of Illinois Press.
Rath, E. C. (2004). The Ethos of Noh: Actors and Their Art, Harvard University Asia Center Press.
A specialist in premodern Japanese cultural history, Professor Eric C. Rath’s research ranges from the traditional Japanese performing arts, especially the 600-year old masked noh drama, to dietary culture particularly the origins of Japanese cuisine, regional foodways, sake, confectionery, and tobacco use. While maintaining his interest in Japanese theater, he is now working on several projects related to the traditional diet, ritual uses for food, smoking, local food, and sweets in early modern and modern Japan. His research illuminates patterns of daily consumption as well as the moments when food takes on symbolic meanings such as through the artistry of the chef, use in ritual, and by references to local terroir and literary culture. His editorial work includes Japanese Foodways Past and Present, co-edited with Stephanie Assmann (University of Illinois Press, 2010), and he is currently area editor for the forthcoming Oxford Companion to Sweets.
- “Revaluating Rikyū: Kaiseki and the Origins of Japanese Cuisine,” Journal of Japanese Studies 39.1 (2013): 67-96.
- Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan. University of California Press, 2010.
- The Ethos of Noh: Actors and Their Art. Harvard University Asia Center Press, 2004 (Pb. 2006).
Professor Rath’s teaching focuses on premodern Japan (especially the years 1200-1868) through introductory courses such as on the history of the samurai, upper level classes on the medieval and early modern periods, and seminars for graduate students that include instruction in reading classical texts. Having served as principal investigator for a US State Department funded service project in rural Tibet, he has broadened his teaching to include Tibetan history. His research interest in Japanese dietary culture enables him to teach classes in food studies such as his “Food in History” course. He anticipates offering more classes on Japanese foodways in the future, and he is developing online and hybrid versions of his classes beginning with his course on the samurai.
- HIST 399: The Samurai
- HIST 587: Early Modern Japan
- HIST 590: Food in History
- HIST 603: History of Tibet
- HIST 605: Medieval Japan