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Professor and Chair
New West 301

Bernard L. Herman Distinguished Professor
Chair, Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Professor, Department of History
Co-Editor, Journal of Japanese Studies

Lab website: UNC Japanese History Lab
Personal website:
Social media: Mastodon


Morgan Pitelka received his B.A. in East Asian Studies with honors from Oberlin College and his Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from Princeton University. Before joining the UNC faculty, he taught at Occidental College (2002-2010). His scholarship focuses on the history of late medieval and early modern Japan, with a focus on material culture, environmental history, and urban history.


  • ASIA 63: First-Year Seminar: Japanese Tea Culture
  • JAPN 231/HIST 271: Ancient and Medieval 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

  • Jason Castro, M.A.-Ph.D. student, Department of History, UNC, coadvisor with Cemil Aydin
  • Megan McClory, M.A.-Ph.D. student, Department of History, UNC, advisor.
  • Sophie Eichelberger, M.A. student, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, UNC, advisor.
  • Dalvin Tsay, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, UNC, committee member.
  • Morgan Wilson, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, UNC, coadvisor with Susan Pennybacker.
  • Drisana Misra, Ph.D. candidate, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Yale University, committee member.





Reading Medieval Ruins: Urban Life and Destruction in Sixteenth-Century JapanCambridge University Press, 2022.

Letters from Japan’s Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: The Correspondence of Warlords, Tea, Masters, Zen Priests, and Aristocrats, with Reiko Tanimura and Masuda Takashi. University of California, Berkeley, IEAS Publications, 2021.

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

“The Life and Afterlife of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616),” in Gary P. Leupp and De-min Tao, eds., The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021).

“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).