Visiting Scholar in Social Studies
Academic Program Affiliation(s): Anthropology, Asian Studies
Biography:Naoko Kumada is social anthropologist and Myanmar specialist. She studies the interaction of politics, religion, and legal order in Asia. She is currently exploring how the rise of China and the shift in global order play out against 1) Southeast Asian regionalism and 2) religious nationalism and constitutional revisionism in Japan. Her recent publications include “Moralizing Militarism Through Education Curriculum in Japan” (2019) and “Margin to Mainstream, Periphery to Center: Geopolitics and the Anthropology of Burma and the Silk Roads” (2018). She is an associate of the Buddhist Studies Seminar and was a visiting scholar at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute at Columbia University. She has taught at Stanford University at the Center for Buddhist Studies and at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, where she remains an external fellow. She led policy engagement with the senior leadership of Myanmar for NYU Stern’s Urbanization Project. Kumada comments regularly on regional developments on The Point with Liu Xin, on China’s CGTN, and on Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia. Her commentary also appears in Singapore’s Today, The Straits Times, and RSIS Commentary. She has worked directly with government leaders, policy, and educational officials in Myanmar, Singapore, Korea, and Japan to provide counsel and foster regional institutional links. She completed advanced study of the Burmese language at the University of Foreign Languages, Yangon, conducted extended fieldwork in a village tract in Upper Myanmar, and obtained a doctorate in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge with her dissertation “In the World of Rebirth: Politics, Economy and Society of Burmese Buddhists.” She majored in constitutional law at Keio University, earned an MA with a study of the transition from precolonial Buddhist to British colonial law in Myanmar, and has a master’s degree in U.S. law. She has received grants and scholarships from institutions such as the University of Cambridge, Toyota Foundation, and Matsushita Foundation, and from the Ministry of Education, Japan, under the Asian Studies Scholarship Program. She served low-income immigrants in East Palo Alto with pro bono legal work, for which she received an Equal Justice America Fellowship and a Wiley W. Manuel Certificate for Pro Bono Legal Services from the State Bar of California. At Bard since 2019.