January 9, 2019: Bodies and Structures 1.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History is now live! Built using ANVC’s Scalar, the site is new, collaborative approach to spatial history and digital humanities. Check us out!

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 Modern East Asian History

In collaboration with David R. Ambaras (History, NCSU), this multi-year digital project brings together scholars of early modern and modern Japan, East Asia, and Southeast Asia to interrogate the spatial history of East Asia from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. We launched Bodies and Structures 1.0 in January 2019. Stay tuned for Version 2.0!

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 Placing Empire.

Listen to an interview about the book with Dr. Tristan Grunow on the “Meiji at 150” podcast.

• 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.”


• “War, First Hand, At a Distance: Battlefield Tourism and Conflicts of Memory in the Multiethnic Japanese Empire,” Japan Review, Special Issue on War and Tourism, forthcoming 2019.

• “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