Professor and Chair
mpitelka@unc.edu
(919) 843-5561
New West 121

Professor and Chair, Department of Asian Studies
Professor, Department of History
Co-Editor, Journal of Japanese Studies

Biography

I am a historian of Asia with expertise in Japan. I received my Ph.D. from Princeton University and have studied and conducted research at universities in Japan, China, Singapore, and England. As Director of the Carolina Asia Center (2013-2019), I wrote the first successful grant to the Department of Education to establish a Title VI-funded National Resource Center for the Study of Asia at UNC, as well as a renewal in 2018. I have also successfully won grants for the university from the Japan Foundation, the Korea Foundation, and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation.

Research

I am a specialist in the history of late medieval and early modern Japan, with a focus on the samurai, tea culture, ceramics, cities, and material culture.

Awards

2018-2019, P.I. on a second grant from the Department of Education to operate UNC’s National Research Center for the Study of Asia
2017-2018, Academic Leadership Program, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, UNC-CH
2017, Faculty Fellowship, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, UNC-CH
2014-2018, P.I. on a grant from the Department of Education to establish UNC’s first National Research Center for the Study of Asia
2011-2013, P.I. on a grant from the Japan Foundation to establish the Triangle Center for Japanese Studies
2011-2012, National Humanities Center Fellowship
2007-2008, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship
2001, Sainsbury Postdoctoral Fellowship, SOAS, University of London
1998-99, Fulbright-IIE Grant
1998, Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellowship, Freer and Sackler Galleries
1994-95, Watson Fellowship

Courses

ASIA 63: First-Year Seminar: Japanese Tea Culture
JAPN 231/HIST 271: Premodern Japanese History and Culture
JAPN 246/HIST 247: Early Modern Japanese History and Culture
JAPN 363/HIST 370: Samurai, Monks, and Pirates: History and Historiography of Japan’s Long Sixteenth Century
JAPN 451: Swords, Tea Bowls, and Woodblock Prints: Exploring Japanese Material Culture
HIST 720: Readings in Asian History
HIST 890: Material Culture and Material Histories

Graduate Students

Daniele Lauro, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, UNC, co-advisor with Miles Fletcher.
Donald Santacaterina, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, UNC, committee member.
Dalvin Tsay, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, UNC, committee member.
Morgan Wilson, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, UNC, committee member.
Drisana Misra, Ph.D. candidate, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Yale University, committee member.

Publications

Books

Japanese Art: Critical and Primary Sources. Editor. 4 vols. Material Cultures; Visual Cultures; Printed Matter; and Sites and Patrons, Knowledge and Power. London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai SociabilityHonolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016. Winner, 2016 Book Prize, Southeastern Conference of the Association of Asian Studies.

Kyoto Visual Culture in the Early Edo and Meiji Periods: The Arts of Reinvention. Coeditor with Alice Tseng. New York: Routledge, 2016.

What’s the Use of Art? Asian Visual and Material Culture in Context. Coeditor with Jan Mrazek. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007.

Handmade Culture: Raku Potters, Patrons, and Tea Practitioners in Japan. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005.

Japanese Tea Culture: Art, History, and Practice. Editor. London and New York: Routledge, 2003.

Selected essays

“Name and Fame: Material Objects as Authority, Security, and Legacy” in Mary Elizabeth Berry and Marcia Yonemoto, ed., What is a Family? Answers from Early Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2019)

The Return of Seduction,” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 77.2 (2017): 153-163.

“Chinese Ceramics and Warrior Sociability in Sixteenth-Century Japan,” in Dora Ching, Louise Cort, and Andrew Watsky, ed. Around Chigusa: Tea and the Arts of Sixteenth-Century Japan. Princeton University Press, 2017.

Form and Function: Tea Bowls and the Problem of Zen in Chanoyu,” in Pamela D. Winfield and Steven Heine, ed., Zen and Material Culture. Oxford University Press, 2017.

“Warriors, Tea, and Art in Premodern Japan.” Samurai: Beyond the Sword. Ed. Birgitta Augustin. Detroit Institute of Arts, 2014.

“The Tokugawa Storehouse: Ieyasu’s Encounters with Things.” Early Modern Things: Objects and their Histories, 1500-1800. Ed. Paula Findlen. London and New York: Routledge, 2013.

Art, Agency, and Networks in the Career of Tokugawa Ieyasu.” Blackwell Companion to Asian Art. Ed. Deborah Hutton and Rebecca Brown. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

The Empire of Things: Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Material Legacy and Cultural Profile.” Japanese Studies (May, 2009).

“A Raku Wastewater Container and the Problem of Monolithic Sincerity.” Impressions 30 (2008). In Japanese translation: “Raku no kensui to ichimaiwateki seijitsusei no mondaiten.” Bijutsu Forum 21 (2010).

Introduction to the Early Modern Warrior Experience.” Early Modern Japan 16 (2008).

“Back to the Fundamentals: ‘Reproducing’ Rikyû and Chôjirô in Japanese Tea Culture.” In Rupert Cox, ed. The Culture of Copying in Japan: Critical and Historical Perspectives. London and New York: Routledge, 2007. Slightly altered and in Japanese translation: “Chanoyu ni okeru ‘utsushi’: dentô bunka no eizokuka” [Reproduction in Japanese Tea Culture: The Perpetuation of Traditional Culture]. Wabi: Chanoyu Kenkyû 4 (2007).

Tea Taste: Patronage and Collaboration among Tea Masters and Potters in Early Modern Japan.” Early Modern Japan: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Fall-Winter, 2004.

“Kinsei ni okeru Rakuyaki dentô no keisei” [The Structure of Tradition in Early Modern Raku Ceramics]. Nomura Bijutsukan Kiyô (Spring, 2000).

Work in progress

Books

Reading Medieval Ruins: A Material History of Urban Life and Destruction in Ichijôdani, Japan, a study of material culture and daily life in a late-medieval provincial city.

Letters from Japan’s Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, with Reiko Tanimura and Masuda Takashi, a study and translation of 23 original letters by warriors, tea masters, Zen priests, courtiers, an empress, and other residents of late medieval and early modern Japan.

Essays

“The Life and Afterlife of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616)” in Gary Leupp, ed., The Tokugawa World (Routledge, forthcoming)

“From Hideyoshi to Iemitsu: The end of civil war and the formation of the early modern state (1580–1650)” in David Howell, ed., Early Modern Japan, vol. 2 of Cambridge History of Japan (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)