Mark Ravina (born 1961) is a scholar of early modern (Tokugawa) Japanese history, and Professor of History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1991. Outside of academic circles, he is likely most well known for his book The Last Samurai: the Life and Battles of Saigō Takamori, published in 2004.
Much of Ravina's scholarly work centers on notions of national identity and state-building in early modern Japan. Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan, published in 1999, and thus far his only other book besides The Last Samurai, centers on this topic, as do a number of journal articles and talks given by Ravina. He is one of only a few scholars actively working to challenge those who equate the Tokugawa shogunate's authority with the "state" in Japan in this period. Working off of the ideas and terms coined by Takeshi Mizubayashi, Ravina explores the notion of a "compound state" in which the daimyō (feudal lords) are not merely governors in the service of the Tokugawa regime, but rulers of semi-independent states within the greater Tokugawa state. This alternative to the traditional view of a monolithic, unified Edo period Japanese state invites not only rethinking of a great many aspects of Edo period history, but also engages with a wider ongoing scholarly discourse on the notions of "nation" and "state" in general. Numerous scholars, including Luke S. Roberts, Ronald Toby and John Whitney Hall have made reference to his work, engaging with it in their own pursuits of a reexamination of notions of statehood and national identity in the Tokugawa period. The influence of this new discourse on statehood is evident in the use of the plural "Japanese States" in the title of the newest book by Timon Screech, a specialist on Edo period art history: The Shogun's Painted Culture: Fear and Creativity in the Japanese States, 1760-1829.
Land and Lordship was translated into Japanese and released as Meikun no satetsu in 2004.
Ravina also served as a guest consultant in two documentary films about the samurai and Tokugawa Japan in 2003, following upon the success of the film The Last Samurai. The title and subject of his book on Saigō Takamori, upon whom the film's central character Lord Katsumoto was based, was purely coincidence.
Having published a number of articles on state-building and national identity within Tokugawa Japan, Ravina is now turning towards addressing the subject as it pertains to Tokugawa Japan in a more global context.
He earned his BA from Columbia University in 1983, and his MA and PhD from Stanford University in 1988 and 1991 respectively.Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan. Stanford University Press, 1999. (ISBN 978-0-8047-2898-0)
The Last Samurai: the Life and Battles of Saigō Takamori. John Wiley & Sons, 2004. (ISBN 978-0-471-08970-4)
State-building and Political Economy in Early-modern Japan. The Journal of Asian studies. 54, no. 4, (1995): 997
Japanese state-making in Global Context: World culture and Meiji Japan. in Richard Boyd and Tak-wing Ngo (eds.) State Making in Asia 2006. (ISBN 978-0-415-34611-5)
State-making in Global Context:Japan in a World of Nation-States. in Joshua Fogel (ed.) The Teleology of the Modern Nation-State: Japan and China. U Penn Press, 2004. (ISBN 978-0-8122-3820-4)