Organized Panel Session
In what ways have new technologies contributed to the creation and reshaping of regional and political hierarchies? Conversely, how have political and spatial hierarchies shaped how technology's impact was distributed? By drawing attention to different regions of Japan and its empire between the Tokugawa period and the twentieth century, we hope to open a broader discussion on these questions.
Linzer examines Tokugawa-period disputes over the environmental effects of iron mining technologies in the river basins of the Chūgoku region. She focuses on how hierarchical differences between domains influenced which regions' inhabitants inflicted more damage or bore greater environmental costs. Takenouchi examines the spatial networks formed between the mountain village of Seinaiji and markets across Japan. Focusing on tobacco cultivation, a mainstay of the village’s economy by the nineteenth century, he considers why certain processing technologies were and were not adopted as Seinaiji tobacco emerged as an archipelago-wide brand. Li examines the innovation of the human-powered push-car railway and its subsequent diffusion from Japan to colonial Taiwan. Her paper reveals this technology's transformative effects on the spatial organization of colonial cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Shepherd's work looks at how technological shifts in the 1930s—from coal-powered steamships to jet-fueled airplanes—created new geographies and spatial hierarchies on either side of the Korea Strait, bypassing former gateways of empire and creating new ones. Examining flows of goods, people, pollutants, and technology itself, this panel asks how space matters for understanding political power and social relations.