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Born in Mitaka, Tokyo, he received his Ph.D. (in "Culture and Representation") from the University of Tokyo in 1999 and became a professor at the International University of Japan in 2003. He was an Executive Research Fellow and Professor at the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM), and a Research Fellow at Stanford University's Japan Center. Since 2006 he has been working at the Center for Study of World Civilizations at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Azuma is married to the writer and poet Hoshio Sanae. They have one child. His father-in-law is the translator, novelist, and occasional critic Kotaka Nobumitsu.
Hiroki Azuma is one of the most influential young literary critics in Japan, focusing on literature and on the idea of individual liberty in an age of ubiquitous information.
He began writing inspired by the work of Kojin Karatani and Akira Asada. He is an associate of Takashi Murakami and the Superflat movement. His publishing debut was "Solzhenitsyn Essay" in 1993. Azuma handed the work directly to Karatani during his lecture series at Hosei University which Azuma was auditing.
Azuma launched his career as a literary critic in 1993 with a postmodern style influenced by leading Japanese critics Kojin Karatani and Akira Asada. In the late 1990s, Azuma began examining various pop phenomena, especially the emerging otaku/Internet/video game culture, and became widely known as an advocate of the thoughts of a new generation of Japanese. He is interested in the transformation of the Japanese literary imagination under its current “otaku-ization.”
Azuma has published seven books, including Sonzaironteki, Yubinteki (Ontological, Postal?) in 1998, which focuses on Jacques Derrida's oscillation between literature and philosophy. This work won the Suntory Literary Prize in 2000 and made Azuma the youngest writer to ever win that prize. Akira Asada stated that it is one of the best books written in the 90s; however, Hiroo Yamagata pointed out that the book is based on the misunderstanding of Godel's incompleteness theorem. He also wrote Dobutsuka-suru Postmodern (Animalizing Postmodernity?) (translated as Otaku: Japan's Database Animals in 2001), which analyzes Japanese pop culture through a postmodern lens. He has also set up a non-profit organization to encourage cutting-edge critics who might be shut out of the existing publishing world.
- Azuma, Hiroki. Otaku. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.
- Azuma, Hiroki. (2007) "The Animalization of Otaku Culture" Mechademia 2 175–188.
- Ruh, Brian (11 Jan 2011). "Ace of Database". Anime News Network.
- Hiroki Azuma's homepage and blog (English)
- "Anime, or something like it: Neon Genesis Evangelion"
- "Towards a cartography of Japanese anime: Anno Hideaki's >>Evangelion<<. Interview with Azuma Hiroki"
- Hiroki Azuma on Twitter