UCLA » College » Social Sciences » History

William Marotti


Contact Information

Email    marotti@history.ucla.edu
Office  5365 Bunche Hall
Phone  310-825-4368

William Marotti teaches modern Japanese history, with an emphasis on everyday life and cultural-historical issues. He is also Chair of the East Asian Studies M.A. Interdepartmental Degree Program. He received his doctorate in 2001 from the University of Chicago’s Department of East Asian Civilizations and Cultures.

Prior to joining the UCLA faculty, William participated from 2001 to 2003 in the Project on the Cold War as Global Conflict at New York University’s International Center for Advanced Studies (as a Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellow), and from 2003 to 2004 in the Expanding East Asian Studies project (ExEAS) of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. From 2004 to 2006, William taught as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the History department at UC Santa Cruz.

William's major research project to date culminated in his book, Money, Trains and Guillotines: Art and Revolution in 1960s Japan (Duke University Press, 2013)(UCLA press release here). The study addresses the politics of culture and everyday life in Japan in the early 1960s, explored through a focus upon transformations in avant-garde artistic production and performance. The book examines the advent of this art-based activism in Japan in the late 1950s and early 1960s in its complex relation with an internationalized art world, mass culture, domestic protest movements, and evolving forms of state practice, law, and surveillance. It reflects upon the significance of this history for understanding the 1960s as a global moment, and the particular role of art and performance in these transformations.

William's current project, “The Art of Revolution: Politics and Aesthetic Dissent in Japan’s 1968,” follows this work with an expanded consideration of the politics of the 1960s in Japan, and their articulation with the global phenomena of the decade. This study includes an examination of late 1960s Japanese political mobilization, focused upon the politics of violence, the problem of political subjectivation, and the distinct forms of activism arising in this period; this part of the larger study appeared in an earlier form in the February 2009 issue of the American Historical Review for their forum on "The International 1968" (see publications below for copies of this and other materials). Marotti also presented portions of his research on the global and local aspects of 1968 in the American Historical Association convention of 2018 in the first of six linked panels on "Fifty Years After 1968" (available here in the C-SPAN archives). Another portion of this work was contributed to a forthcoming volume on global experimental music Tomorrow is the Question: New Directions in Experimental Music Studies, ed. Benjamin Piekut (Univ. of Michigan Press, 2014). The essay considers the performance and politics of the Music group (Gurūpu ongaku) ca. 1960 as part of this conjunctural moment in musical experimentalism.

William’s broader research interests include post-WWII Japan, global history, the 1960s, Cold War, comparability, critical theory, everyday life, art and politics, performance, law and legitimation, and protest movements. He also serves as director for the Japanese Arts and Globalizations (JAG) multi-campus research group, whose activities may be found here:


Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2001

Selected Publications

Money, Trains and Guillotines: Art and Revolution in 1960s Japan (Duke University Press, 2013).

(Reviewed in Art In America, November 2013; American Historical Review, June 2014 ("featured review"); Journal of Asian Studies, Feb 2015; Journal of Japanese Studies, Summer 2014; Comparative Studies in Society and History, July 2014; Pacific Affairs, March 2015; Visual Studies, June 2014; 『あいだ』 216号 (Oct 2014), Japan Forum, June 2015; Monumenta Nipponica 2015; Nihon Kenkyū, October 2017, Japan Times, July 20, 2013. Pictured in Hyperallergic's Top Ten list 2013)

Adapted excerpt:"Creative Destruction,"Artforum International (February 2013).

“Strange Illuminations: Matsuzawa Yutaka from Civilizational Synthesis to Anticivilization Uprising,” 「不思議な輝き: 松沢宥 文明的総合から反文明の蜂起」From Nirvana to Catastrophe: Matsuzawa Yutaka and his ‘Commune in Imaginary Space’ (exhibition catalog), ed. Yoshiko Shimada (Tokyo: Ota Fine Arts Tokyo, 2017), 8-24 (in English and Japanese).

“The Art of the Everyday, as Crisis: Objets, Installations, Weapons, and the Origin of Politics,” boundary 2, vol. 42, no. 3 (August 2015): 79-96

“Here or Somewhere: Thoughts on the Global Contemporaneity of Butoh”/ “Aquí o en algún lugar: reflexiones sobre la contemporaneidad global del butoh,” in “Raíces profundas de la danza,” special edition, Danza Cuerpo Obsession (2015): 50-60.

“Proletarian Who Possessed Objets: the 1960s Politics of Akasegawa Genpei,” in Akasegawa Genpei no geijutsu genronten: 1960 nendai kara genzai made = “The Principles of Art” by Genpei Akasegawa: From 1960s to the present (exhibition catalog), ed. Mizunuma Hirokazu, Matsuoka Takeshi, and Iwao Yoshinobu (Chiba: Chiba National Museum of Art, Japan, 2014), 14-21; 479-24 (in English and Japanese).

“The Untimely Timeliness of Nakajima Yoshio,” 「中島由夫:時代からずれた適時性」Nakajima Yoshio Syndrome - Art is always the next possibility, ed. Nakajima Yoshio Syndrome Committee, (Tokyo: Nakajima Yoshio Syndrome Committee, 2015), 8-17 (in English and Japanese).

“Challenge to Music: The Music group’s sonic politics,” in Tomorrow is the Question: New Directions in Experimental Music Studies , ed. Benjamin Piekut (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014), 109-138. 

“The Lives and Afterlives of Art and Politics in the 1960s, from Anpo/Anpan to Bigakkō,” in Anti-Academy, Alice Maude-Roxby, ed. Joan Giroux, (Manchester: John Hansard Gallery/distributed by Cornerhouse, 2013), 27-37.

"Japan 1968: The Performance of Violence and the Theater of Protest," American Historical Review (February 2009): 97-135.

"Sounding the Everyday: the Music group and Tone Yasunao’s early work," Yasunao Tone Noise Media Language, ed. Brandon LaBelle, Errant Bodies Press, Los Angeles/Copenhagen, 2007.

"Political aesthetics: activism, everyday life, and art’s object in 1960's Japan,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 7, 4 (2006).

Simulacra and Subversion in the Everyday: Akasegawa Genpei's 1000-yen copy, critical art, and the State," Postcolonial Studies 4, 2(July, 2001): 211-239

日本の1960年代前衛芸術運動と土方巽、即ち土方の舞踏を評価する諸問題Nihon no 1960 nendai zen`ei geijutsu undo to Hijikata Tatsumi, sunawachi Hijikata Tatsumi no buto o hyoka suru shomondai" [Hijikata Tatsumi and Japanese Avant-garde art movements of the 1960s; Problems in Evaluating Hijikata Tatsumi's Butoh], Choreologia 24, (2001): 48-5.3.

Roundtable discussion: James Elkins, Ed. What Do Artists Know? (forthcoming, Penn State U Press, 2012).

Review: Seeing Stars: Sports Celebrity, Identity, and Body Culture in Modern Japan, by Dennis J. Frost. American Historical Review(April 2012): 504-5.

Review: Concerned Theatre Japan The graphic art of Japanese theatre 1960-1980,by David G. Goodman. Journal of Asian Studies 58, 4 (November, 1999): 1140-2.

舞踏の問題性と本質主義の罠 "Buto no mondaisei to honshitsushugi no wana" (The problematics of Butoh and the essentialist trap),
Shiataa Aatsu 8 (May 1997): 88-96.

60年代前衛芸術と土方巽 Rokuju nendai zen'ei geijutsu to Hijikata Tatsumi" (1960's Avant-Garde Art and Hijikata Tatsumi), Hijikata Tatsumi `98 Tsushin 2 (January 1998): 1.

From the Theatre Festival in Zagreb, Croatia," translation of Nishido Kojin, Kuroachia, zagurebu no engekisai kara," in Croatia 1996. Tourdays with Gekidan Kaitaisha, Miyauchi Tatsu, (Iokyo: Joho Senta shuppan-kyoku, 1997), 28.