Chalmers Johnson, one of the key contributors to Asian studies since the early 1960s, died on November 20, 2010. (Here are several notices — link, link, link.) Johnson has been an important contributor to Asian studies since the appearance of his first book in 1962, Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power: The Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1937-1945, based on his doctoral dissertation at Berkeley. The book created a long debate about the causes of the Chinese revolution — patriotism or class? — which shed new light on the nature of Communist mobilization.
Johnson was a brilliant thinker who was exceptionally attuned to language — both in his own writing and in the importance of making nuanced use of Chinese and Japanese sources in studying Asian history. And he was a figure who seemed to relish controversy, from this early debate about the Revolution to his focus on American empire in the past half dozen years (Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope).