Postcolonial Asian cities (2015)

Contact Person: Christian Hess (

Other members (Faculty members):
・James Farrer (
・David Wank (
・Sven Saaler
・Bettina Gramlich-Oka (
Further members include Linda Grove, Jon Howlett (Univeristy of York, UK), Toby Lincoln (University of Leicester, UK), Jeff Wasserstrom (University of California, Irvine), Liu Haiyan (Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences), Wang Min (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences)

Goals and Purpose

This project aims to create an interdisciplinarynetwork of scholars researching the topic of postcolonial Asian cities. Specifically we are interested in exploring the ways in which colonial and imperial pasts are used to justify or challenge urban development schemes,heritage politics, and issues of urban identity in the growing urban centers of Asia. Globalization and the city in Asia is fast becoming an established scholarly sub field, and we would be interested in refining this scholarship by examining the extent to which a city’s colonial past aids or hampers its global aspirations. At the heart of such inquiry is a more nuanced picture of the complex relationship between global forces, nation-states, and local society in an era of rapid urbanization.

One of the most exciting aspects of this subfield isits interdisciplinary potential. Real opportunity exists for meaningful intellectual dialog between historians, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers and urban studies specialists. The project will contribute to this growing interdisciplinary scholarship by including participants from various fields and working at institutions in Japan, China, US, UK and Australia. The initial activity will focus largely on Chinese cities (including Hong Kong) with the aim of bringing in more comparative cases from Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines in subsequent years.

Events, activities and publications

Sophia Symposium—June 19, 2015: Our main activity this year was the international symposium “Empire and Aftermath: New Perspectives on the Legacies of Japanese Imperialism”. The one-day event brought together scholars from the US, Australia, and Japan who are working on groundbreaking studies of the legacies of colonialism in East Asia. Professor Hess is having productive conversations with participants about publication plans for the papers.

Lecture as part of the Sophia Open Research Week: The Untold History of Taiwanese Migration Under the Japanese Flag, 1895-1945 (November 27, 2015)

Dr. Hess presented a paper “Militarization and Urban Development in Lüshun and Dalian, 1895-1955,” for the Conference “The Habitable City in China: Urban History in the 20th Century,” at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai, July 3, 2015.

Dr. Hess presented a paper “Soy City: The port of Dairen and the soy trade in Japanese Manchuria, 1895-1937” at the Association for East Asian Environmental History Conference, October 22-26, 2015, Takamatsu Japan.

Dr. Hess has a chapter accepted (under contract) “Militarization and Urban Development in Lüshun and Dalian, 1895-1955” in Toby Lincoln, ed., The Habitable City in China. Palgrave (forthcoming 2016).

Dr. Hess has an article “Sino-Soviet City: War, Decolonization, and the Making of Socialist Modernity in Soviet-occupied Dalian, 1945-1955” under peer review for inclusion in an accepted special issue “Second World Urbanity” of the Journal of Urban History

Our ultimate goal is to publish papers from the Sophia Symposium held this year (preferably with several other invited chapters or with another conference event) in an edited volume to be edited by Dr. Hess.

This research Unit's activities in 2013

This research Unit's activities in 2014