Nathaniel M. Smith is a cultural anthropologist with research interests including political anthropology and nationalism, urban studies, sound and visual anthropology, music and youth culture, modern Japanese history and film, bicycle craftsmen, and the history of anthropology. His book manuscript, Uncivil Society: the Japanese Right the Politics of Futility, is an ethnography of the moral and social worlds of Japan’s prominent rightist activist groups based on ethongraphic fieldwork since 2005. It analyzes activism as a cultural field and a mode of political subjectivity. The manuscript argues that within anti-establishment right-wing activism modes of ambivalence and vehemence, forms of practical and symbolic action, and interplay between large and small-scale histories inform the creation, deployment, and maintenance of new political identities. What Smith terms the "politics of futility" -- a feeling of embattlement that activists cultivate even despite the increasing prominence of new nationalist movements in many democracies -- anchors how activists understand the meaning of the often agressive and violent figure they cut in civil society.
Drawing from this research, recent publications include “Facing the Nation: Sound, Fury, and Public Oratory among Japanese Right-Wing Groups,” a contribution to the edited volume Sound, Space, and Sociality in Modern Japan, a contribution to a special section on new forms of nationalism in Japan "Fights on the Right: Social Citizenship, Ethnicity, and Postwar Cohorts of the Japanese Activist Right," and a contribution to a special section on anti-multicultural discourse and online versus street-based activism in South Korea and Japan entitled "Vigilante Video: Digital Populism and Anxious Anonymity among Japan's New Netizens." He is a member of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation's US-Japan Network for the Future. In addition to doctoral training in anthropology, Smith holds an MA in East Asian Studies from Yale University, an MA in International Relations from Waseda University, and a BA in Foreign Language from the Department of Comparative Literature and Foreign Language at UC Riverside.
Smith teaches courses on the anthropology, history, and cultural study of modern Japan, ranging from film, fashion, and visual culture, to war, nationalism, and social movements. Current courses include EAS 295: Japnese Film from the Inside Out, JPN 245: Anime and Japanese Visual Culture (Honors section available), JPN 345: Megacity Tokyo, EAS 466/566: Chinese and Japanese Nationalisms (cross-listed in Political Science), JPN 425/525: The Anthropology of Japan (cross-listed in Anthropology), Honors thesis advising, and independent study courses.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, Nathaniel Smith was a visiting scholar at Waseda University pursuing fieldwork funded by the Japan Foundation for his second book project: Kabukicho Renaissance: Multiculturalism, Marginality, and Urban Renewal in Tokyo.