Gavan McCormack is a researcher specialising in East Asia who is Emeritus Professor and Visiting Fellow, Division of Pacific and Asian History of the Australian National University. He is also a coordinator of an award-winning open access journal The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
McCormack did a combined Law and Arts degree at the University of Melbourne from 1955 to 1959. He then spent two years completing a Masters degree in history from 1960 to 1962. McCormack spent the 1962–1963 academic year at the Osaka Foreign Language University where he took a Diploma in Japanese Language and Culture. He then enrolled at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London where from 1963 to 1966 he did another undergraduate degree in Chinese, graduating with a Second Class Honours degree. McCormack then spent two years completing a second Masters degree at SOAS in Area Studies (Far East). From 1969 to 1974 he completed a doctoral degree at SOAS and produced a thesis Chang Tso-lin, the Mukden Military Clique, and Japan, 1920–1928: The Development and interrelationships of Chinese warlordism and Japanese imperialism in northeast China. This was later published as a book.
His academic career took him to the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, then to La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia and eventually the University of Adelaide in South Australia. In 1990 he was appointed Professor in Japanese at the Australian National University.
McCormack's main research interest is in "modern Japanese (and East Asian) political, intellectual, and environmental history". He has published widely, in academic and popular journals, on the "liberation" struggles in South East Asia. In more recent times he has become more interested in environmental issues and in 1996 published The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence which attacked Japanese economic success as a mirage based on environmental exploitation that posed the single greatest threat to stability in the region. He remains a trenchant critic of the Bush Presidency and the American government in general. He has claimed that the North Korean nuclear program is justified by belligerent American rhetoric.
- Japanese Imperialism Today: Co-prosperity in Greater East Asia (co-authored with Jon Halliday), London and New York, Penguin and Monthly Review Press, 1974, 279 pp. ISBN 0-14-021669-3.
- Crisis in Korea, co-edited with John Gittings, Nottingham, the Russell Press, Spokesman University Paperback No.17, 1977; 190 pp. ISBN 0-85124-186-7.
- Chang Tso-lin in Northeast China, 1911–1928: China, Japan and the Manchurian Idea, Stanford University Press, 1977, 334 pp. ISBN 0-8047-0945-9.
- Korea North and South, co-edited with Mark Selden, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1978, 240 pp.
- Twice Victims: Koreans at Hiroshima, edited and introduced, jointly translated from Japanese with Kang Ok Su, Tokyo, The Korean Peace Committee in Japan, 1981, 44 pp.
- Cold War Hot War: An Australian Perspective on the Korean War, Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, 1983; 191 pp ISBN 0-86806-082-8, ISBN 0-86806-083-6 (pbk).
- The Price of Affluence: Dilemmas of Contemporary Japan, translator-in-chief and editor of Rokuro Hidaka's Sengo Shiso o Kangaeru (Tokyo), Iwanami, 1980). Tokyo and New York, Kodansha International, 1984
- Japanese Society: Ins and Outs in Showa 60, translated and edited by Gavan McCormack and Yoshio Sugimoto, Papers of the Japanese Studies Centre, Melbourne, No. 8, December 1986, 30 pp.
- Democracy in Contemporary Japan, co-edited with Yoshio Sugimoto, Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, and New York, M.E. Sharpe, 1986, 272 pp ISBN 0-87332-397-1, ISBN 0-87332-398-X (pbk).
- The Japanese Trajectory: Modernization and Beyond, co-edited with Yoshio Sugimoto. Cambridge University Press, 1988, 300 pp ISBN 0-521-34515-4.
- Bonsai Australia Banzai: Multifunctionpolis and the Making of a Special Relationship with Japan, Gavan McCormack, ed., Pluto Press, Sydney, 1991, 228pp.
- The Burma-Thailand Railway: memory and history, (co-edited with Hank Nelson), ed, Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 1993, 175pp ISBN 9781863734233.
- Korea Since 1850, (co-authored with Stewart Lone), Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, and New York, St. Martin's Press, 1993, 226 pp. ISBN 0-582-87111-5, ISBN 0-312-09685-2.
- Peace and Regional Security in the Asia-Pacific: A Japanese Proposal, translated, edited and introduced, Peace Research Centre, Research School of Pacific Studies, ANU, Working Paper No 158, September 1995, 59pp.
- The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence, Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 311pp. 1996. (Co-published with Allen and Unwin, Sydney). ISBN 1-56324-711-9, ISBN 1-56324-712-7 (pbk).
- Multicultural Japan: Palaeolithic to Postmodern, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996. (co-edited with Donald Denoon, Mark Hudson, and Tessa Morris-Suzuki). 296 pp. ISBN 0-521-55067-X
- (with Glenn Hook), Japan's Contested Constitution – documents and analysis, London and New York, Routledge, 2001, 212 pages. ISBN 0-415-24099-9 (hbk), ISBN 0-415-24100-6 (pbk).
- Target North Korea: Pushing North Korea to the Brink of Nuclear Catastrophe, New York, Nation Books, and Sydney, Random House Australia, 2004. 228 pp. ISBN 1-56025-557-9.
Articles and book chapters
- "Some Radical Utopian Movements in Early Europe and China" in Afrasian, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1969, pp. 16–22.
- "The Student Left in Japan" in New Left Review, No. 65, January–February 1971, pp. 37–53. Reproduced in part in Jon Livingston, Felicia Oldfather & Joe Moore (eds.), The Japan Reader, 2 vols., New York, Pantheon, 1973, Vol.2, pp. 552–56.
- "The Tokyo-Taipei-Seoul Nexus" (with Jon Halliday) in Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol.2, No.1, Spring 1972, pp. 36–55.
- "Japan and America" (with Jon Halliday) in New Left Review, No.77, January–February 1973, pp. 59–76.
- "The Politics of Korean Studies in Europe" in Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol.7, No.3, 1977, pp. 387–392.
- "The South Korean Phenomenon" in Australian Outlook, published by the Australian Institute of International Affairs, Vol.32, No.3, December 1978, pp. 262–278.
- "The Kampuchean Revolution, 1975–1978, The Problem of Knowing the Truth" in Arena (Melbourne), No.53, September 1979, pp. 40–82.
- Revised and expanded version in Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol.10, 1–2, 1980, pp. 75–118.
- "Kampuchea: Nationalism, Intervention, Revolution", Working Paper No.11, Antropologisch-Sociologisch Centrum, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1982
- "Cambodia: Rationale for a Rural Policy" (review article) in Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol.11, No.2, 1981, pp. 231–236.
- "Korea North and South" in Arena (Melbourne), 56, pp. 34–40, November 1980.
- "Letter from Pyongyang" in Far Eastern Economic Review, 15 August 1980.
- "1930's Japan: Fascist?" in Social Analysis (Adelaide), No.5/6 December 1980, pp. 125–43, also in Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 14, 2, April–June 1982, pp. 20–33.
- "North Korea: Kimilsungism – Path to Socialism?" in Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 13, 4, October–December 1981, pp. 50–61.
- "The Reunification of Korea: Problems and Prospects" in Pacific Affairs (Vancouver: University of British Columbia), 55, 1, pp. 5–31, Spring 1982.
- "Yellow Rain" (review article discussing Grant Evans' The Yellow Rainmakers: Are Chemical Weapons being used in Southeast Asia? in Arena, No.66, 1984, pp. 196–205.