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Caught in Comparisons: The Geopolitics of Salmon in Hokkaido, Japan

Jan 11, 2017 04:15 pm to 06:00 pm
Organiser: Dominik Collet | Juliane Dame | Daniel Münster | Carsten Wergin


Caught in Comparisons: The Geopolitics of
Salmon in Hokkaido, Japan

Heather Swanson, Aarhus University

Comparison is a powerful world-making practice. It molds identities, politics, national imaginaries and structures of discourse. It structures the machinery of academic analysis, too. Unfolding within histories of colonization and geopolitics, comparisons embed themselves in and shape material forms, pulling the tensions of modernity, nationhood, and empire into the stuff of the world. This talk explores the landscape-making force of comparisons—how comparisons reach out to physically reshape more-than-human ecologies along with human lives. By focusing on salmon fisheries in Hokkaido, Japan, this talk explores how the transnational comparisons of fishermen, scientists, government officials, indigenous people, and environmental activists have reconfigured not only patterns of global salmon markets and the lives of rural fishing community residents, but also the flow of rivers and the bodies of fish. How, it asks, have the comparisons of nation-building and landscape development in an uneven world come to shape the flesh and bones of salmon, an animal central to this island’s economy, ecology, and history? Attending to practices of comparison, this talk argues, is key method for better understanding how relations of political economy become an evolutionary force.

Heather Anne Swanson, a postdoctoral researcher with the AURA project, received her Ph.D. in anthropology in 2013 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Swanson’s research has focused on the making of salmon populations in Hokkaido, Japan, a region cast as “Japan’s frontier” and widely compared to the American West. Bringing together environmental history, political ecology, and evolutionary biology, Swanson asks how Japanese desires for legibly “modern” landscapes literally make their way into the bodies of fish.

This talk is part of the public lecture series "Environmental Humanities", which is jointly organised by the Cluster "Asia and Europe", the Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE) and the research initiative “Transcultural Studies” (Transkuturelle Studien) during the winter semester 2016/2017.


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