David Ambaras

Associate Professor, Director of Honors

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Ph. D., Princeton University 1999
M. A., Princeton University 1995
M. A., The University of Tokyo 1991
License, Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales 1986
B. A., Columbia University 1984


HI573 Japan's Empire in Asia 

HI264-301 Modern Asia, 1800-Present 

HI233-601 The World Since 1750 

Research Interests

Professor Ambaras's research explores the social history of Japan and its empire, particularly through a focus on deviance and marginality.  His current book-length research project, Empire of Drifters: Life and Death on the Margins of Japan's Asia, uses interethnic intimacies, child trafficking, regional migration, and piracy to shed new light on the history of East Asia in the era of Japanese imperialism.  His first book, Bad Youth: Juvenile Delinquency and the Politics of Everyday Life in Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2006), shows how the policing of urban youth constituted a central arena for the development of new state structures and new forms of disciplinary power, the articulation of new class, gender, and family relations, and the regulation of popular culture during the years 1895 to 1945.

Teaching Interests

Professor Ambaras's upper-level courses focus on modern Japan, Japanese imperialism, Western missionaries in East Asia, and the history of Tokyo.  He is also planning to develop courses on migration and urbanization in Asia.



Professor Ambaras accepts graduate students working on modern Japan as well as world and comparative history.

Graduate Advisees

Recent Work & Publications

  • Bad Youth: Juvenile Delinquency and the Politics of Everyday Life in Modern Japan. University of California Press, 2006
  • “Topographies of Distress: Tokyo, c. 1930.” in Noir Urbanisms, ed. Gyan Prakash (Princeton University Press, 2010)
  • “Juvenile Delinquency and the National Defense State: Policing Young Workers in Wartime Japan, 1937-1.” The Journal of Asian Studies , no. 63, no. 1 (2004): 31-60
  • “Social Knowledge, Cultural Capital, and the New Middle Class in Modern Japan, 1895-1912..” The Journal of Japanese Studies , no. 24, no. 1 (1998): 1-33
  • “"Dans le piège du fourmilion: Japonaises et Fujianais en marge de l'Empire et de la Nation" [In the Antlion's Pit: Japanese Women and Fujianese Men at the Margins of Empire and Nation].” Vingtième siècle. Revue d'histoire , no. October (2013)

Contact Information

  • Office Location

    460 Withers Hall

  • Phone: 919.513.2228
  • Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
  • Skype: dambaras (weekdays 9am-5pm only)
  • Website: David Ambaras's Website
  • Office Hours

    Professor Ambaras will be on leave during the 2014-15 academic year.



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350 Withers Hall, Campus Box 8108, Raleigh, NC 27695-8108
Phone: 919.515.2483 Fax: 919.515.3886

College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of History