H. Yumi Kim

H. Yumi Kim

Assistant Professor

Contact Information

Research Interests: 19th- and 20th-century Japan and Korea, medicine and religion, folk culture, colonialism, and the history of women and gender

Education: PhD, Columbia University

I am a historian of Japan and Korea, with research and teaching interests in cultural and social histories of women, gender, medicine, religion, racialization, and colonialism in Japan, Korea, and the Asian diaspora in the 19th and 20th centuries.

My book, Madness in the Family: Women, Care, and Illness in Japan (Oxford University Press, 2022), shows that most people in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Japan who suffered from what we today call mental illnesses remained in the care and custody of their families, despite the introduction of European-derived psychiatry and its institutions in the late nineteenth century. It argues that the caregiving obligations of families—and especially the women therein—intensified by becoming institutionalized in legal and bureaucratic processes and gendered as women’s responsibilities. At the same time, the everyday demands of caregiving labor countered models of kinship in laws and official ideologies. Madness exposed forms of kinship along supernatural, communal, and matrilineal lines that did not fit normative visions of family. It also showed the vulnerabilities and resilience of women who drew on their experiences of kinship and care to parse plausible causes of their own bodily, psychic, and emotional pain. Shifting the perspective of psychiatric, medical, and state documents from their male authors to their female (and at times male) subjects, I trace the languages and practices of domestic intimacy and illness with which women and families negotiated a dizzying array of claims about madness and its proper management across various settings: the rural village, farm household, urban marketplace, and courtroom. The book exemplifies ways of critically reading dominant archives to access experiences and voices that have long been rendered invisible and unintelligible.

Currently, I am working on my second book, Archives of Feminine Religiosity in the Peripheries of the Japanese Empire, 1879-1945, which explores the making of feminine religiosities under conditions of colonial and gendered violence in the outermost edges of the empire: the annexed islands of Okinawa, the remote areas of Northeast Japan, and the colonized territory of Jeju Island in what is now South Korea. It argues that forms of feminine healing were forged in the crucible of persecution, during which a range of people and institutions—from the Japanese imperial state and lawmakers to journalists and anthropologists—created a gendered civilizational hierarchy among religious specialists and their practices. State-supported campaigns and scholarship feminized what would come to be called “faith healing” and “superstitions,” even when practiced by men. But through such legal, political, and social processes, feminine cultures of religious healing acquired subversive and insurgent qualities. Fragments of songs, poetry, colloquial language, and myths suggest that those involved in feminine religious life often refused or even remained indifferent to the terms of their persecutors. They focused instead on ways of knowing and relating with earthly and divine realms that sustained the wellbeing of their kin and communities in times of colonial and capitalist extraction.

As part of my community-engaged History Lab: Asian Diasporas in Baltimore project, I am also researching histories of the relocation of Japanese Americans from internment camps to Baltimore, Maryland from 1942 to 1945, as well as former Johns Hopkins University President Milton S. Eisenhower’s involvement in internment as the first director of the War Relocation Authority in 1942. The History Lab project is supported by the Critical Responses to Anti-Asian Violence (CRAAV) Initiative, which I co-founded with Erin Chung (Political Science, JHU) and Clara Han (Anthropology, JHU).

My research has been supported by the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fulbright Institute of International Education, and the Japanese-American Association of New York. I am also a recipient of the Jack D. Pressman-Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Development Award from the American Association for the History of Medicine.

I welcome applications from potential graduate students in modern Japanese and/or Korean history, and from those with interests in transnational histories of gender, medicine, psychiatry, religion, and empire.

I currently teach the following courses:


  • “Japan in the World,” an introductory survey of Japanese history from the 1700s to the present.
  • “Images of Postwar Japan,” a seminar on understanding post-World War II Japanese history through such visual sources as photographs, art, film, manga, and more.
  • “Religion, Medicine, and Mind in Japan,” a seminar on religious and medical approaches to treating mental illness in Japan from the 19th century to the present.
  • “Multiethnic Japan?,” an advanced seminar on ethnicity, race, and nation across the Japanese empire.
  • “Japan from its Peripheries,” an advanced seminar on people who are often considered as belonging to the social, political, and cultural peripheries of Japan, including outcasts, ethnic Korean residents, and sex workers.
  • "History Research Lab: Asian Diasporas in Baltimore,” a community-engaged course focused on generating archive-based research on local Asian-descended communities in the Baltimore area.


  • “Readings in Japanese and Korean Histories”
  • “Methodologies in the Histories of Women, Gender, and Sexuality”