Spotlight on Konrad Lawson
November 15, 2013 Leave a comment
Konrad Lawson joined the School of History in autumn 2013 as a transnational historian with a primary focus on modern East Asia and the aftermaths of modern war. Raised on the shores of the North Sea in Stavanger, Norway and Aberdeen, Scotland, he spent some seven years in all studying languages and doing historical research in East Asia. In order of the cumulative lengths of stay over the years he has called Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Yokohama, Taipei, and Jinan home for extended periods ranging from a few summers of intensive language study to two years as a Ministry of Education sponsored research student at Waseda University in Japan, where he developed a strong interest in the history of interactions between China and Japan. Konrad completed his PhD at Harvard University in 2012 and was then a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence before coming to St Andrews.
Konrad is currently working on his first book project, which is a study of the relationship between war crimes and treason in the process of confronting the violence of the Japanese empire in East and Southeast Asia. Research for this project gave him wonderful opportunities to work with everything from the Communist “Traitor Elimination Bureau” materials in Chinese and Taiwanese archives to North Korean prison and trial records captured by US forces in the Korean war; from the supreme court rulings of treason trials in early postwar Philippines to British intelligence documents on the wartime conduct of “renegades” who fought on behalf of the Japanese empire.
Beyond the less than happy world of torture, trials, and wartime massacres of his main project, Konrad has also long pursued an interest in educational technology and what has come to be called the digital humanities. Teaching himself programming, he began with efforts to develop software to help learn and maintain proficiency in the languages he had studied. He later developed broader interests in exploring the ways technology can complement the work of a scholar in research, in teaching, and in sharing work with the broader community of history lovers outside the university environment. He founded one of the early collaborative weblogs on East Asian history at Frog in a Well, digitized the back issues and helped restart the Sino-Japanese Studies journal as a small but important open access publication, and is a contributor to the ProfHacker column at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Konrad is hoping to help build digital humanities at the School of History and has launched a series of workshops for staff and students introducing some of the skills that can be helpful to a historian in the twenty-first century.
Konrad currently teaches courses on the Japanese Empire, China’s Revolutions 1850-1989, co-teaches the MLitt course Global History, Globalisation and its Histories, and contributes to the first-level course Themes in Late Modern History.
When not carrying out research or championing the cause of digital humanities, Konrad enjoys long meandering walks, popcorn-powered evening films from around the world, and, in the spirit of “learning as play,” enjoys picking away at some new languages and digital skills.