Graduate Student Forum

Identity and Ambition in the Drafting of Japan’s Deep Sea Geographies

Tuesday, 28 September 2021 | 17:00 - 17:45 (JST)
Zoom Meeting
  • Jonas Rüegg PhD Candidate in History and East Asian Languages, Harvard University
  • Rieko Kage Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo

Japan’s oceanic expansion since the mid-nineteenth century pushed the archipelago’s boundaries to newly charted islands and vaguely defined oceanic borderlands in all directions. Redefining a formerly secluded island nation as an expansive pelagic empire shifted the focus of Meiji period geographers to the underwater landscapes that tied the islands together. This project discusses the way identity and imperial ambition became engraved in the virtual environs of a steadily developing deep-sea topography that keeps serving national interests in the age of deep-sea resource exploitation.


Jonas Rüegg is a PhD Candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard University. His research focuses on the maritime history of early modern and modern East Asia. His dissertation “The Kuroshio Frontier: Business, State, and Environment in the Making of Japan’s Pacific,” explores the role Japanese oceanic environments, as well as exploration and colonization played in the formation of the modern international order in the Asia-Pacific region. Originally from Switzelrand, Jonas holds a B.A. from the University of Zürich and an M.A. in “Regional Studies – East Asia” from Harvard University. In the context of his dissertation, he has conducted research at the University of Tokyo and Academia Sinica in Taipei.