Miriam Silverberg was a Professor of History and former Director of the Center for the Study of Women (CSW) at UCLA. Her field of research covered Japan, Modern Japanese Thought, Culture, Social Transformation; Social and Cultural Theory; and Comparative Historiography.
Silverberg spent her early years in Tokyo where she graduated from the International School of the Sacred Heart before returning to the United States. She received her master's degree at Georgetown University and her doctorate from the University of Chicago. She came to UCLA in July of 1989. About her personal history and its influence on her scholarship, Silverberg wrote: "As someone who ended up in Japan not by choice but by fate, I attempt to make use of my own history and heritage to teach and to write with nuance. As a scholar whose ideals were forged during the 1960s I have not relinquished the relevance of the term relevance."
Silverberg's master's essay dealt with the massacre of Koreans in Tokyo following the 1923 earthquake. She carried her interest in Japanese colonialism in Korea to UCLA, where she encouraged graduate students to study Japanese and Korean modernity together. Her research interests included modern Japanese thought, culture, and social transformation; social and cultural theory; and comparative historiography. Her books include Changing Song: The Marxist Manifestos of Nakano Shigeharu (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), which received the 1990 John King Fairbank Prize in East Asian History. Her book, Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times, which appeared in 2007 and is published by University of California Press, examines the history of Japanese mass culture during the 1920s and 1930s before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
On December 7 and 8, 2007, the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies held a two-day symposium on "Imperial Japan and Colonial Sensibility: Affect, Object, Embodiment" to celebrate the work of Silverberg, who was its original organizer.
Miriam directed the Center for the Study of Women from 2000 to 2003. She created the CSW Workshop Project that is still in existence today. One of these workshops, "Migrating Epistemologies," met up until 2007. Under Miriam's directorship, CSW sponsored a groundbreaking conference titled Feminism Confronts Disability. She also launched the first Biennial Women's Community Action Award Dinner (with the UCLA Women's Studies Program); a conference entitled Educating Girls: New Issues in Science and Technology Education; and a talk by Matsui Yayori on the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal. Miriam was a vibrant, productive, and important scholar. Despite debilitating illness over the last several years, she continued her research and writing and published Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times in 2007. She was a wonderful colleague; she will be greatly missed.
- Kathleen McHugh, Director
UCLA Center for the Study of Women
A memorial celebration of the life of Miriam Silverberg, scholar, colleague, and friend, will be held on October 3rd, 2008, in UCLA's Royce Hall 314 from 5 to 7 pm. Sponsored by the UCLA Department of History and the Center for the Study of Women, this event will honor Miriam's life and accomplishments.