To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: Markets, Imperial Politics and Trans-Mobility
Inter-Imperial Entanglements of Politics and Oceanography: Japan’s Salmon Fisheries and Its Biosphere of Influence in the Northern Sea (Hokuyō) in the 1930s
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States
This paper examines the development of Japan’s salmon fisheries in the northern sea (hokuyō) in the 1930s. The earlier scholarship has revealed imperialistic nature of Japanese salmon fisheries in the northern sea and offered a “rise and fall” narrative about them. This narrative emphasizes the decline of Japan’s salmon fisheries in the northern sea in the 1930s because of intensifying confrontation with Russia. I challenge this conventional wisdom by looking at inter-imperial relations between Japan, Russia, and the United States. In addition, I focus on oceanographers and their work of producing scientific knowledge about the Bering Sea and salmon migrating there.
My paper demonstrates four things. First, Japanese salmon fisheries experienced structural shifts from coastal “passive” fisheries to offshore “active” fisheries and advanced into the high seas of the Bering Sea in the 1930s. Second, Japan sought to expand its “biosphere of influence” in the northern sea, where it should exercise superior political influence and enjoy exclusive access to salmon. Third, Japanese oceanographers played key roles in enlarging Japan’s biosphere of influence in the northern sea by trying to make the ocean and the fish scientifically legible. Last, Japanese oceanographers established both competitive and cooperative relationships with Russian and American counterparts in terms of scientific knowledge production about salmon in the 1930s. This paper argues that considering entanglements of politics and oceanography in inter-imperial contexts is essential to better understand Japan’s empire-building project in the northern sea before the Pacific War.