This is the professional site for William W. Kelly. I am professor emeritus of anthropology and the Sumitomo Professor Emeritus of Japanese Studies at Yale University. I received my undergraduate B.A. in anthropology from Amherst College and a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology in 1980 from Brandeis University. I joined the faculty at Yale in 1980 and I have taught here continuously since then. I formally retired from full-time teaching at the end of 2017. I served as chair of the Council on East Asian Studies (1988-1991) and as chair of the Department of Anthropology in 1995-2000 and 2005-2010.
Much of my research and teaching has centered on the social and historical anthropology of Japan. One of my main interests has been the historical dynamics of regional society in Japan, based on extended fieldwork in the Shōnai area of Yamagata Prefecture that I began in the 1970s and continue at present. This research led me to broader questions of the cultural politics of heritage, relationships of the metropolitan and the regional, and the notion of the “mainstream” as the ideology of class formation in post-WII Japanese society. In the past two decades, I have also explored sport and body culture and their significance in modern Japan. This began with field research in the Kansai area of Japan on the patterns of professional baseball in the cities of Osaka and Kobe and then widened to the growing influence of soccer and the Olympic Movement in reshaping notions of ethnicity, gender, and citizenship in Japan and East Asia. I am presently writing a book on the history of Japan anthropology and its importance for Japan studies and for sociocultural anthropology.
I have long been committed to US-Japan educational exchange and served for many years on the Governing Board of the Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies, the Advisory Board of the Japan-US Student Conference, the Japan Committee of the Social Science Research Council, and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies. I was a member of the American Advisory Committee of the Japan Foundation for eight years and a longtime associate editor of the Journal of Japanese Studies. In 2009, I was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, by the Japanese government. At Yale, I am especially grateful to have received three awards for teaching: the McCredie Teaching Award for Information Technology in Teaching in Yale College (2004), the Harwood F. Byrnes / Richard B. Sewall Teaching Prize for distinguished teaching in Yale College (2011), and the Graduate Mentor Award in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2013).