Prof. Tessa Morris-Suzuki is an outstanding scholar of Asian Studies. Her penetrating questions, bringing both global and local considerations to bear on conventional views of northeastern Asian society, have led the creation of new perspectives on ideological issues.
Prof. Morris-Suzuki was born in England in 1951. She studied Russian history at Bristol University. She continued her research into Japanese economic history at the University of Bath and received a Ph.D. In 1989, she published A History of Japanese Economic Thought, which established her academic reputation during a decade when the Japanese development model was getting much attention.
She began her academic career as a Lecturer in Economic History at the University of New England, Australia, in 1981, and became an Associate Professor there in 1990. In 1992, she became a Senior Fellow of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, and then in 1997, a Professor of Japanese History in the same university. She has taken the lead in Japanese and Asian Studies while successively holding important academic posts such as the President of the Asian Studies Association of Australia and the Convenor of the Asian Studies in Asia Network.
Since mid-1990s, Prof. Morris-Suzuki has shifted her interest from economics to politics and culture, extending her range to include cultural studies, and has made compelling arguments from the perspectives of ‘post modernism’ and ‘post colonialism’. One of her major works, A View from the Frontier , reveals the experience of the Ainu under the modern state, which has pushed them away to the ‘frontier’, and treated them as ‘outsiders’, in the wider context of northeastern Asia. The book was highly praised both in Japan and abroad.
Innovation in research methods is vital to intellectual creativity. In conventional empirical research, official state documents and writings of important people have been privileged as reliable historical records. However, Prof. Morris-Suzuki began a pioneering method in order to break down the limitations this imposed on research, and to excavate ordinary people’s memories and experiences. She travelled to meet and talk to local people, and so discovered relevant research materials. In her writings, she makes connections between the diverse information which she has collected in many countries, and in exquisite style, new stories are told which extend beyond the framework of individual states and individual regions.
Prof. Morris-Suzuki always focuses on people in the margins of society, those remote from power. In recent years, in addition to her academic work, she has been active as Convenor of the Asian Civic Rights Network, based in multi-cultural Australia.
Can we hope for a society which reaches beyond the boundaries imposed by race and nation, where humans can live fully human lives? This is a question that all citizens must ask in the era of democracy. From her chosen perspective in the margins of society, Prof. Tessa Morris-Suzuki has formulated a new way forward for regional cooperation, which can reach beyond the national borders, and has contributed to mutual understanding between Asian people. She is a truly global intellectual, and for this reason, is very worthy of the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.