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Kate McDonald

Department Fields


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Modern Japan

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of California San Diego, 2011

Office: HSSB 4221
Hours: On Leave 2015-2016

My research explores the social, cultural, and technological history of mobility in twentieth century Japan and the Japanese Empire. I am currently at work on a history of travel and the spatial politics of the Japanese Empire. Other aspects of my research consider the history of transportation technologies and social thought in the twentieth century. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on modern and recent Japanese history, the history of empire, and critical global history.

Research and Teaching Interests

  • Mobility and Society in Twentieth-Century Japan
    Trains! Rickshaws! Bicycles! Feet!
  • Critical Geography and Modern Empire in Asia and the Pacific

Current Projects

  • Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan
    I examine how Japanese travelers created an imperial social imaginary through encounters with history, culture, and language in Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan.
  • The Rickshaw and The Railroad
    I'm revisiting the history of mobility in modern Japan through its forgotten technologies -- rickshaws, human-powered railways, and feet.
  • Renrakusen: Transportation and the Tensions of Empire
    This short monograph explores the conflicts that transportation produced in the context of the Japanese Empire. I focus on encounters on the iconic "Shimonoseki-Pusan Connecting Ferry," which was one of the central routes for labor migrants and travelers.

Selected Publications

  • "Speaking Japanese: Language and the Expectation of Empire"
    In Christopher Hanscom and Dennis Washburn, ed., The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in East Asian Empire (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, forthcoming), pages TBD.
  • "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: For a New History of Mobility in Japan"
    Mobility in History 5 (2014): 161-169.
  • "Ryôdo, rekishi, aidentitii: Sen-Man kankô to Nihon teikoku no keisei"
    (Territory, history, identity: Korea-Manchuria tourism and the making of the Japanese Empire), Contact Zone, no. 5 (2012): 1-18.
    McDonald Contact Zone.pdf

Undergraduate and Graduate Courses

  • HIST 87: Japanese History through Art and Literature
  • HIST 187B: Modern Japan
  • HIST 187C: Recent Japan
  • HIST 187DR: Directed Readings in the History of the Japanese Empire
  • HIST 201AS: Advanced Historical Literature (Asia)
    Topics: "Critical Global Histories" and "History and Representation"
  • HIST/JAPAN 287J: Reinventing "Japan" Colloquium
    An interdisciplinary, three-quarter colloquia open to faculty and graduate students working in Japan Studies

Honors and Professional Activities

  • UC Japanese Arts and Globalization Research Group
    Executive Council
  • American Historical Association
  • Association for Asian Studies
  • Society for the History of Technology

Selected Awards