Pulitzer Prize-winning author and internationally renowned historian John W. Dower will visit the Northern Illinois University campus to deliver the next installment of the W. Bruce Lincoln Endowed Lecture Series.
Dower’s lecture, “Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq,” will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, in the Altgeld Hall Auditorium. Admission is free, and the event is open to the public.
Recognized as a preeminent expert of modern Japanese history and U.S.-Japanese relations, Dower has published 10 books and received numerous awards throughout his career.
His 1999 book, “Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II,” won multiple honors, including the Pulitzer Prize in Letters for General Nonfiction, the National Book Award in Nonfiction, the Bancroft Prize in American History, the John K. Fairbank Prize in Asian History and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History. In addition, Dower’s 1986 book, “War Without Mercy: Race and Powers in the Pacific War,” earned several prizes, including the National Books Critics Circle Award in General Nonfiction.
As a scholar, Dower’s work has been innovative in his use of visual materials and popular culture to examine Japanese and U.S.-Asian history. In recent years, he has collaborated with Shigeru Miyagawa at MIT on a digital online project, “Visual Cultures,” which historically interprets important East Asian graphic collections for high school teachers and students.
Dower also served as executive producer on the film documentary, “Hellfire – A Journey from Hiroshima,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.
The Endowed Lincoln Lecture Series is named in honor of the late W. Bruce Lincoln, a world-renowned historian of Russia who taught on the NIU faculty for more than three decades until his retirement in 1998.
Lincoln possessed a lifelong passion for learning and a gift for writing. A number of his books gained a wide audience among the general public.
The magnitude of Dower’s prowess has had lasting effects outside academic circles as well as within. “Embracing Defeat” was required reading amongst senior officials in the Bush administration as it prepared to invade Iraq, although Dower expressed his concern with comparing post-invasion conditions in 1940s Japan with the circumstances in Iraq.
“The experience of having his own scholarship twisted to prepare for a war he thought was both avoidable and indefensible led him to pursue a study of the reckless use of unsuitable historical analogies to justify future aggression, resulting in his new book ‘Cultures of War,’ E. Taylor Atkins, professor and director of undergraduate studies said.
After earning his doctorate in history and Far Eastern languages from Harvard in 1972, Dower held faculty positions at the University of Nebraska, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California, San Diego, and most recently MIT. He is also a member of the American Academy of Fine Arts and Sciences and a recipient of at least two distinguished lifetime achievement awards.
“He is easily the most influential scholar writing about Japanese history in English,” Atkins said. “I think his visit is a fabulous opportunity for NIU and the surrounding community to hear directly from one of the nation’s most esteemed public intellectuals and historians.”