Department of History

Keegan Cothern

Ph.D. Candidate
Research Interests Modern Japan and East Asia as a whole; environmental history and natural disasters; climate change; science and technology; infrastructure development and urbanization.


"I work on postwar Japan’s attempts to mitigate water disasters through infrastructural development and environmental management in the forms of dams and other river-adjacent construction, local afforestation, and coastal protection. These schemes (partially inspired by the US Tennessee Valley Association) pushed forward a Japanese developmentalism that was hardly environmentally conscious, often being tied to economic development programs aimed at uplifting Japan’s peripheries, albeit at the cost of electrical power siphoned off to downstream cities, localized pollution, and the displacement of rural residents, resulting in movements that later remade sites of infrastructure into places of recreation and tourism. In addition, I’m engaged in the history of Japan’s investigation into climate change’s factors and progress, as well as internal policy debates, laws, diplomacy, and technology aimed at mitigating increasing natural disaster risks and intensities, while promoting Japanese technology and leadership in varyingly earnest attempts to curb climactic changes."