Thomas Blackwood is a Professor of Sociology and Social Psychology at Tokyo International University. He obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan in 2005, with a major in social psychology. His main area of research is sociology of education, broadly conceived. In addition to his Ph.D., Dr. Blackwood has an M.A. in Japanese studies from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in East Asian languages and civilizations from the University of Chicago.
In 2001, Dr. Blackwood came to Japan on a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad fellowship. At the time, he was affiliated with the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science as a visiting researcher. From 2003 to 2006, while writing his dissertation, Dr. Blackwood worked as a faculty research associate in the same institute. From 2006, Dr. Blackwood worked as a lecturer at Bunkyo Gakuin University before accepting a position at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in 2007 as an associate professor of sociology and Japanese studies, where he helped establish and run a Contemporary Japanese Studies M.A. Program. In 2008 Dr. Blackwood returned to the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science as an associate professor of contemporary Japanese studies, where he also acted as managing editor of the Social Science Japan Journal (Oxford University Press) until 2012. In addition to these full-time positions, Dr. Blackwood has taught courses on Japanese society at Tokyo International University and Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, comparative sociology of sports at Gakushuin University and social psychology at Sophia University as an adjunct lecturer.
In 2012, Dr. Blackwood moved back to the United States to run the MIT-Japan Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught undergraduate and graduate students about Japanese culture and society to prepare them for internships in Japanese companies, research institutes and universities.
As a sociologist focusing on Japanese society, Dr. Blackwood’s research fits into a number of areas within Japanese studies and sociology, including education and stratification, sports, gender, identity, mass media and popular culture. His Ph.D. dissertation was a study of Japanese high school extracurricular activities. Focusing on baseball, he analyzed the subjective meanings that participation on a team holds for Japanese high school students (and graduates) in forming their identities and worldviews, in addition to helping them develop interpersonal skills and certain qualities of character. At the same time, Dr. Blackwood deconstructed the history and institutions of Japanese high school baseball to show that what is often considered “natural” or “Japanese” about high-school baseball is actually an ideology carefully constructed at the turn of the 20th century, which has been strictly regulated through today.
From 2009 to 2011, with the assistance of a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Kakenhi), Dr. Blackwood expanded this research to add more quantitative data, and to more rigorously compare high school baseball players with students in other extracurricular clubs, as well as students who do not join clubs. In total, almost 4,000 high school seniors from across Japan completed his survey, providing him with a wealth of data that he is currently analyzing using SPSS software. While his earlier research demonstrated that, subjectively, many Japanese players believe that they acquire certain skills and character qualities through their participation in high school baseball, his current study is similarly showing a number of strong correlations between participation in certain types of clubs (e.g., sports clubs) and self-assessment on a number of measures.
Out of this research, Dr. Blackwood has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed academic journals, and has presented his findings at academic conferences around the world, including the Association of Asian Studies conference in Honolulu in March 2011 and the Japanese Studies Association of Australia Conference in Melbourne in July of that year.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles