Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History is out! The site is open-access and peer-reviewed, with seventeen modules built around translated primary sources and new tools for user-directed visualization. Take a look!

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.

In addition to my research and teaching, I currently serve as the Associate Editor for Japan for the Journal of Asian Studies and as a co-editor for the Johns Hopkins University Press monograph series Studies in the History of Technology.

  • Mobility and Society in Twentieth-Century Japan
  • Critical Geography and Modern Empire in Asia and the Pacific
  • Spatial History and Spatial Humanities
  • 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. Watch a seven-episode documentary about the project produced by the Gerda Henkel Foundation or watch a brief talk about the project on UC TV. 
  • 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 and Bodies and Structures 2.0 in November 2021. Stay tuned for Edition 3.0!

Books and Edited Volumes:

  • 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.”

Digital Projects, Essays, and Tools:

  • Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History (with David R. Ambaras, NCSU). November 2021.
    • Bodies and Structures 2.0 offers 17 spatial histories of modern East Asia and the worlds of which it is a part. Each module is based around translated textual and visual primary sources, which are also searchable via the site’s “Sourcebook” tag. Built on the open-source Scalar platform and with generous funding from the NEH Office of Digital Humanities, Bodies and Structures 2.0 represents a new model of collaborative, connected, and media-rich scholarship. The site is open-access and peer-reviewed, and offers new tools for user-directed visualizations. Use it for teaching and research!
    • David R. Ambaras and Kate McDonald, “Why Think Spatially,” in Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History. November 2021.
    • Watch the trailer.
  • David R. Ambaras, Craig Dietrich, Erik C. Loyer, and Kate McDonald. “Lenses.” A new tool for user-directed visualizations on the Scalar platform. September 2021.
  • Bodies and Structures 1.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History  (with David R. Ambaras, NCSU). January 2019.
    • David R. Ambaras and Kate McDonald, “What We’re Doing,” in Bodies and Structures: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History, ed. David R. Ambaras and Kate McDonald. 2019.
    • Bodies and Structures is a platform for researching and teaching spatial histories of East Asia and the larger worlds of which they were a part. Built using the open-source platform Scalar, the site combines individually-authored, media-rich content modules with conceptual maps and visualizations, which reveal thematic, historical, and geographic connections between the modules. Each module is based around a translated primary source or sources. These translations are also included in the site.
  • People-Works: The Labor of Transport

Research Articles:

Other Publications

  • HIST 9: Introduction to Historical Methods. “Hiroshima in History and Memory.”
  • HIST 87: Japanese History through Art and Literature.
  • HIST 105II: Infrastructure and Ideology in the Modern World.
  • HIST 187B: History of Modern Japan.
  • HIST 187C: Recent Japan.
  • HIST 200AS: Historical Literature: Asia. “The Historiography of Modern Japan (1).”
  • HIST 201AS: Advanced Historical Literature: Asia. “The Historiography of Modern Japan (2).”
  • HIST 221A/B: Graduate Research Seminar in Transnational Empire (two quarters).
  • HIST/JAPAN 287J: Reinventing “Japan” Colloquium.
  • NEH Dangers and Opportunities of Technology: Perspectives from the Humanities Grant, 2024
  • F. Hilary Conroy Prize, Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting 2023
  • Margaret T. Getman Service to Students Award, 2020-2021
  • Gerda Henkel Research Scholarship, 2021-2022
  • NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant (Level II), 2019
  • 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