About our staff
Dr Christopher Harding
BA, MA, MSt, DPhil (Oxon), FRHistS
Senior Lecturer; Asian History
- Deputy Director of Research (Knowledge Exchange & Impact)
- Course Organiser for History in Practice and Approaches to History
Affiliated research centres
I grew up in London before heading ‘up north’, as it seemed at the time, to Oxford University. Following an undergraduate degree in History I was the co-founder of a company producing music for the computer games industry, before being lured back into academia via an MSt in Historical Research and then a DPhil in South Asian history, both at St Antony’s College, Oxford.
In 2004 I had the opportunity to go to Japan for a couple of years on a Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Scholarship, studying the language intensively, working on some comparative South Asia – Japan research, and training and working as a journalist with Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun.
I returned to the UK at the start of 2007 to take up a post at Edinburgh University, where I now research and teach on both South Asia and Japan. Please see my research and teaching pages, and my personal website, for more.
In April 2012 I was privileged to be the recipient of the EUSA Teaching Award for Best Course (Pioneers of Cultural Communication 4MA) and to receive the Runner Up award for Innovative Teaching.
I was one of AHRC/BBC's ten New Generation Thinkers for 2013-14, with contributions to Radio 3's Free Thinking programme beginning in June 2013. I now mix my research and teaching with broadcast journalism for BBC Radio 3 and 4, including a four-part series on global cultures and mental health: The Borders of Sanity.
The summit of Mount Fuji after a night-time climb. Our fellow climbers were equipped with hats and lights, except for a stray Japanese businessman with suit and briefcase – either climbing for charity or very, very lost following some after-work drinks.
i. Book and peer review for:
- History of Psychiatry
- Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry
- English Historical Review
- Journal of Ecclesiastical History
- Journal of Asian Studies
- Funding bodies, including AHRC
- Academic publishers, including Routledge.
ii. AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2013-14.
iii. Member of RSA [Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce] Working Group on ‘Spirituality, Tools of the Mind, and the Social Brain’ (2013/14).
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Britain & Ireland
- Comparative & Global History
- Medicine, Science & Technology
- Nineteenth Century
- Twentieth Century & After
In my research I explore the highly fruitful cultural dialogue that took place between the Western world and Asia (principally Japan and India) across the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
I focus on mental health and related religious and philosophical ideas, looking especially at the pioneering of new practices in psychiatry, psychotherapy, and spirituality.
This work builds on my original doctoral research, which focused on low-caste Indian conversions to Catholic and Protestant Christianity around the turn of the twentieth century.
[The image above comes from a manga by the artist Torisugari, who told me about his experiences with depression in an episode of The Borders of Sanity.]
Current research activities
1. Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 - the Present
3. 'Existential Health' in Edinburgh
I am currently involved in three related research projects:
1. Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 - the Present
A new social and cultural history of modern Japan, aimed at a mixed general and academic audience. My focus is on the creative role of resistance, conflict, and distress in shaping Japan's trajectory from the late nineteenth century through to the present day. The book is under contract with Allen Lane, due for publication in August 2018.
Centred on an ensemble cast drawn from India, Japan, and Europe, this project looks at how new visions of 'existential health' emerged from the mid-twentieth century onwards, as ideas, practices, and people crossed borders and entered into creative exchange. 'Buddhist psychoanalysis' appeared in Japan, 'Christian psychiatry' in India, and across both contexts ambitious and all-encompassing forms of inter-religious and religion-psy dialogue opened up. This project brings these pioneering lives and movements to life, and explores the role that existential health might play in tackling some of today’s challenges: providing people and communities with renewed meaning, and helping to prevent mental ill health.
3. 'Existential Health' in Edinburgh
This collaborative research project, currently in its early stages, looks at ways of bridging the gap between two current areas of priority focus in Scottish schools: prevention of mental ill health and an expansive vision of Religious and Moral Education (RME). We hope to achieve this via a broadly sourced, intellectually sound, and practically useful notion of ‘existential health’. Our questions and tasks include:
- What is the evidence connecting religious belonging, practice, or narrative with better mental health outcomes? Where does that evidence intersect with what pupils, staff, education and mental health professionals tell us young people most need, in terms of support in preventing mental ill health?
- How might curricula, practices, and support arrangements in schools be improved to take account of these findings, and across which years of study?
- What sorts of intellectual and practical resources might a culturally diverse city like Edinburgh need here, and what can the city and its universities provide? What sorts of contributions might researchers from across academic disciplines – including counselling and psychotherapy; psychology and psychiatry; history and anthropology of global mental health; religious studies – be able to offer, in collaboration with therapists, storytellers, advocacy and support workers, and others across the city?
Our collaborative team is coming together across 2018, so please get in touch if this project might be of interest to you.
- In Search of Modern Selves: Psychiatry and Psychotherapies in India and Japan, 1880 - the Present
- Pioneers of Cultural Communication: Europe, India, and Japan, 1850 – 1950 (4MA) * WINNER OF A EUSA AWARD FOR BEST COURSE *
- Japan: Politics, Culture, and Social Change: 1868 – 1952
- Asia and Africa 2a: Societies, Cultures, and Empires, 1600 -1880
- Asia and Africa 2b: Nationalisms, Liberation Movements, and the Legacies of Colonialism, c.1880 - the Present Day
- History in Theory & History in Practice
- South Asian Studies 2 (School of Social and Political Science)
- 4MA Dissertation supervision, on Indian, Japanese, and 'East-West' topics
- Seeking Japan in a Westernizing World: Revolution, Romance, and Imperialism, 1868 - 1945
- Pathways in Historical Methodology: History at the Interface with the 'Psy Disciplines'
- Approaches to History
- Writing History
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Link|
|PhD||Crime and Police in Colonial Bengal||Secondary|
|PhD||British Women's missionary organisations and institutions and their work towards females in India from 1830 - 1870||Secondary|
|Parr, Rosalind||PhD||Cosmopolitanism, nationalism and Indian women 1930-1960||Secondary|
Books - Authored
Harding, C. (forthcoming) Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present. Penguin Allen Lane
Nagao, Y., Harding, C. and Ikuta, T. (2016) Buddhist Psychoanalysis: On Kosawa Heisaku. Kongo Shuppan
Harding, C. (2008) Religious Transformation in South Asia: the Meanings of Conversion in Colonial Punjab. Oxford University Press
Books - Edited
Harding, C., Fumiaki, I. and Shin'ichi, Y. (eds.) (2015) Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan. Taylor & Francis
Harding, C. (2017) Meiji modernist. History Today, 67
Harding, C. (2016) The be all and end all. Aeon Magazine
Harding, C. (2016) How Japan came to believe in depression. BBC News Magazine
Harding, C. (2016) Religion in psychiatry and psychotherapy: Exploring the Japanese experience and the possibility of a transnational framework. East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International JournalDOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/18752160-3459406
Harding, C. (2015) Japan’s first psychotherapies: Between ‘religion’ and ‘therapy’. Nonreligion and Secularity
Harding, C. (2015) Three Western myths about Japan. BBC News Magazine
Harding, C. (2014) Into nothingness. Aeon
Harding, C. (2014) What were the wartime Japanese thinking?. History Today, 64
Harding, C. (2014) Japanese psychoanalysis and Buddhism: the making of a relationship. History of Psychiatry, 25(2), pp. 154-170DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0957154X14524307
Harding, C. (2014) Silent communion. Aeon
Harding, C. (forthcoming) India. In: Mental Health in Asia and the Pacific: Historical and Comparative Perspectives. Springer Japan
Harding, C. (forthcoming) The contemplative gaze: Bede Griffiths and the needs of post-independence Indian Christianity. In: Sarkar, T., Malekandathil , P. and Pachuau , J. (eds.) Christianity in History: Encounters, Engagements, and Experiences. Primus
Harding, C. (2017) Historical reflections on mental health and illness: India, Japan, and the West. In: White, R., Jain, S., Orr, D. and Read, U. (eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Sociocultural Perspectives on Global Mental Health. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 71-92DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-39510-8_4
Harding, C. (2016) Religion. In: Akihito, S. and Junko, K. (eds.) History and Anthropology of Psychiatry. University of Tokyo Press
Harding, C. (2015) Introduction. In: Harding, C., Fumiaki, I. and Shin'ichi, Y. (eds.) Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan. Taylor & Francis
Harding, C. (2015) Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan: A Four-Phase View. In: Harding, C., Fumiaki, I. and Shin'ichi, Y. (eds.) Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan. Taylor & Francis
Harding, C. (2014) State of Insecurity: Self-Defence and Self-Cultivation in the Genesis of Japanese Imperialism. In: Nicolaidis, K., Sebe, B. and Maas, G. (eds.) Echoes of Empire: Memory, Identity and Colonial Legacies. I.B. Tauris
Harding, C. (2014) Conclusion. In: Harding, C., Fumiaki, I. and Shin'ichi, Y. (eds.) Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan. Oxon: Routledge
Harding, C. (2014) Religion. In: Psychiatry, History and Anthropology. University of Tokyo Press
Harding, C. (2013) The Therapeutic Method of Kosawa Heisaku: ‘Religion’ and ‘the Psy Disciplines’. In: Japanese Contributions to Psychoanalysis. The Japan Psychoanalytic Society
Harding, C. (2009) Sigmund's Asian Fan-Club?: The Freud Franchise and Independence of Mind in India and Japan. In: Clarke, R. (ed.) Celebrity Colonialsim: Fame, Power and Representation in Postcolonial Cultures. Cambridge Scholars Press, pp. 73 - 87