Session Abstract: In the twentieth century, Japan’s modern nation-state formation and imperial expansion rested on the construction of infrastructures in its home islands and across the empire. Physical infrastructures—massive transportations and other structures—required deep engagements with the landscape, available materials, and indigenous labor. The construction and maintenance of infrastructures also affected power dynamics, circulation of commodities and people, and relationships with the environment. The goal of this panel is to incorporate environmental and social aspects of infrastructure building into a conventional examination of infrastructure as a tool of colonial control. We investigate infrastructures' dynamic interactions with imperial and anti-imperial practices in the Asia-Pacific region in and beyond Japan’s empire.
Four panelists present current research projects. Grunow examines the role of the railroad in establishing Japanese claims to colonial territory. Dong investigates how Japanese experts absorbed migrant workers’ vernacular skills in utilizing red bricks in building Manchurian cities. Greenstein explores the development of shipping lines to show interactions between companies and government institutions from across the empire. Nishizaki presents on how colonial institutions nurtured human capital through in-house training programs and their influence on the post-war reconstruction of Japan.
This panel deviates from the conventional format. Rather than simply presenting individual papers, each panelist's presentation begins with a direct response to two questions posed by the panel chair: (1) what does it mean to examine “infrastructure” as an object of historical analysis and (2) how to respond to new attention to Southeast Asia in thinking about infrastructure and Japan’s empire-building.
Paper Presenter: Tristan Grunow – Pacific University
Paper Presenter: Yuting Dong – Harvard University
Paper Presenter: Elijah Greenstein – University of British Columbia
Paper Presenter: Sumiyo Nishizaki – Rikkyo University