Asian Studies

Asian Studies Seminar Series: Paul Kreitman

In brief

Date - 22 November 2023

Venue - Project Room 1.06, 50 George Square

Speaker - Dr Paul Kreitman (Columbia University)

Title - 'Nature and Sovereignty Conservation in Japan's Ocean Borderlands'

About the event

Desert islands are the focus of intense geopolitical tensions in East Asia today, but they are also sites of nature conservation. In this global environmental history, Paul Kreitman shows how the politics of conservation have entangled with the politics of sovereignty since the emergence of the modern Japanese state in the mid-nineteenth century. Using case studies ranging from Hawai‘i to the Bonin (J: Ogasawara) Islands to the Senkaku (Ch: Diaoyu) Isles to the South China Sea, he explores how bird islands on the distant margins of the Japanese archipelago and beyond transformed from sites of resource extraction to outposts of empire and from wartime battlegrounds to nature reserves.

This talk will examine how interactions between birds, bird products, bureaucrats, speculators, sailors, soldiers, scientists and conservationists shaped ongoing claims to sovereignty over oceanic spaces. It considers what the history of desert islands shows us about imperial and post-imperial power, the web of political, economic and ecological connections between islands and oceans, and about the relationship between sovereignty, territory and environment in the modern world.

About the speaker

Paul Kreitman is Associate Professor of 20th Century Japanese History at Columbia University in New York. His first book, Japan’s Ocean Borderlands: Nature and Sovereignty (Cambridge University Press, 2023), explores the environmental history of the uninhabited islands that today rim the outer perimeter of the Japanese body politic. His article “Attacked by Excrement: The Political Ecology of Shit in Wartime and Postwar Tokyo” won the American Society for Environmental History’s Leopold Hidy Prize in 2018. His writing has also appeared in The Japan Times, The Financial Times, the Asahi Shimbun, Tōyō Keizai Online, The Spectator, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

He is currently at work on a history of border control in Japan since the 16th century.

About the seminar series

Each year, Asian Studies welcomes a fantastic range of guest speakers and colleagues to present a seminar on their research, spanning fields as diverse as film and media, literature, religion, society, politics and international relations.

How to join

Events are free and everyone is welcome. No booking is necessary.

Are you interested in studying with us?

We are the only university in Scotland to offer full undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in both Chinese and Japanese, as well as postgraduate programmes in Korean Studies and East Asian Relations.

Find out more about Asian Studies at Edinburgh

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Nov 22 2023 -

Asian Studies Seminar Series: Paul Kreitman

Join us in-person for a seminar by Dr Paul Kreitman (Columbia University) entitled 'Nature and Sovereignty Conservation in Japan's Ocean Borderlands'.

Project Room 1.06
50 George Square
University of Edinburgh