February 23, 2018: Dr. Tristan Grunow (University of British Columbia) was kind enough to interview me for his “Meiji at 150” podcast series. Listen to the podcast here.

Personal Statement:

My research explores the social, cultural, and technological history of mobility in twentieth century Japan and the Japanese Empire. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on modern and recent Japanese history, the history of empire, and critical global history.

Advisor to:

Research and Teaching Interests:

• Mobility and Society in Twentieth-Century Japan

• Critical Geography and Modern Empire in Asia and the Pacific

Current Projects:

• The Rickshaw and the Railroad: Human-Powered Transport in the Age of the Machine

I’m revisiting the history of mobility in modern Japan through its forgotten technologies — rickshaws, human-powered railways, and feet.

• Bodies and Structures: Deep-Mapping the Spaces of Japanese History

In collaboration with David R. Ambaras (History, NCSU), this multi-year project brings together scholars of early modern and modern Japan and East Asia to interrogate the spatial history of Japan from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. Our aim is to create a digital platform through which scholars can study the spaces of Japanese history as multilayered and embodied historical experiences without reifying any one spatial narrative or perspective.

People-Works: The Labor of Transport

I’m curating a special exhibit on the labor of transport for the Mobility in History Blog. The exhibit will open online in November 2018.

Selected Publications:

Books and Edited Volumes:

Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017)

— Open Access! Read now at

— Paperback available at and

— Watch a short interview with Prof. McDonald about the book here.

• Mobility in History: The Yearbook of the International Association of the History of Transport, Traffic, and Mobility 7 (New York: Berghahn Journals, 2016). Editor, “Modern Mobilities: Asia.”


• “Speaking Japanese: Language and the Expectation of Empire,” in The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in the Japanese Empire, ed. Christopher P. Hanscom and Dennis Washburn, 159-179 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2016).

• “Asymmetrical Integration: Lessons from a Railway Empire,” Technology and Culture 56, no. 1 (2015): 115-149.

• “Imperial Mobility: Circulation as History in East Asia under Empire,” Transfers 4, no. 3 (2014): 68-87.

• “Intermodality and Beyond: Toward a New History of Mobility in Japan,” Mobility in History 5 (2014): 161-169.

— Read the capsule version at the Mobility in History Blog.

• “Ryôdo, rekishi, aidentitii: Sen-Man kankô to dai Nihon teikoku no keisei” (History, territory, identity: Sen-Man tourism and the making of the Japanese empire), Contact Zone no. 5 (2012): 1-18.

Honors and Professional Activities:

• UC President’s Faculty Research Fellowship in the Humanities, 2015-2016

• Hellman Fellowship, 2013-2014

• Regents’ Junior Faculty Fellowship, 2013-2014

• Fulbright (Japan-US Educational Commission), 2008-2009