Location: Bowdoin / Sakura Christmas

Asian Studies

Sakura Christmas

Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies

Contact Information

schristm@bowdoin.edu
207-798-4299
History

38 College Street - 102



Teaching this semester

ASNS 2310/HIST 2890. The Japanese Empire and World War II

Seminar. Charts the sudden rise and demise of the Japanese empire in the making of modern East Asia. Once stretching from the Mongolian steppe to the South Seas mandate, the Japanese empire continues to evoke controversy to this day. Discussions call attention to competing imperial visions, which challenged the coherence of the project as a whole. Primary sources introduce the lived experience of various individuals—emperors and coolies alike—who both conquered and capitulated to the imperial regime. Topics covered include settler colonialism, independence movements, transnational labor, fascist ideology, environmental warfare, the conundrum of collaboration, and war trials. Note: This course is part of the following field(s) of study: East Asia.

ASNS 2311/HIST 2421. Modernity and Identity in Japan

In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry sailed to Japan with four naval warships and issued an ultimatum: open up to trade or face foreign invasion. Charts Japan’s swift emergence from its feudal origins to become the world’s first non-Western, modern imperial power out of its feudal origins. Lectures introduce the origins, course, and consequences of building a modern state from the perspective of various actors that shaped its past: rebellious samurai, anarchist activists, the modern girl, imperial fascists, and office salarymen. Readings complicate dichotomies of East and West, modern and feudal, nation and empire through the lens of ethnicity, class, and gender. Note: This course is part of the following field(s) of study: East Asia.



Education

  • A.B., History, Harvard College (2008)
  • Ph.D., History, Harvard University (2016) 

Sakura Christmas is a historian of modern Japan. Her research concerns the history of borderlands, environment, and imperialism in the twentieth century. She is currently revising her first book, tentatively titled, Nomads in the Japanese Empire, which locates one origin of China's autonomous region system within Japanese imperialism. Her manuscript examines how Japanese-led ethnic cleansing and environmental engineering in the nomadic borderlands demarcated the territory of Inner Mongolia in the 1930s. This study offers an alternate understanding to the beginnings of the multiethnic framework of the People’s Republic of China. Instead of only seeing the foundations of Communist rule as forged in the fires war against imperialism, this project points to the significance of Japanese imperialism in shaping the ethnic and ecological bounds of modern China.  

Much more tentatively, her next project, “Rare Earth: Bodies and Ecologies in a Technologic Age,” links Japan’s rise as a postwar electronics giant to intensive mining practices around the globe, from "cancer villages" in northern China to decimated gorilla habitats in the Congo. “Rare Earth” will look at how new kinds of environmental and economic frontiers have opened up as a result of abstracting nature into digital and virtual forms. It aims to blend economic, environmental, and material history, by making experimental forays into the digital humanities: she looks forward to learning how to interpret the “natural” worlds created in videogames—Zelda’s primeval forests or Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom—as they come to stand in for our physical surroundings. 

Professor Christmas has spent over a decade total living, studying, and working in Japan, China, and Mongolia. This includes a year each as a Princeton-in-Asia fellow in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and a Fulbright researcher in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. She received her A.B. and Ph.D. in History from Harvard University, and a Japanese Studies certificate from Kyoto University. Her research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, State Department, Social Science Research Council, and Japan Foundation. She joined the faculty at Bowdoin in 2015.

Invited Lectures:

  • "Ethnic and Environmental Engineering in the Japanese Empire"
    Amherst College, September 2017
  • “Hybrid Sheep in the Alfalfa Empire: Rationalizing the Steppe in Occupied Inner Mongolia”
    Mongolian and Inner Asian Studies Unit, Cambridge University, November 2015
  • "Empire on Edge: Japanese Imperialism and the Ecological Nomad"
    University of Massachusetts at Amherst, January 2015
    Bowdoin College, January 2015
    Columbia University, December 2014
    University of California at Irvine, November 2014
  • "Elemental Imperialism: Ecologies of Decline in a Chinese Borderland"
    McGill University, January 2015
    Drexel University, December 2014
    Yale University, November 2014

Conference Presentations:

Professor Christmas regularly presents her research at the Association for Asian Studies and American Society for Environmental History, among other meetings. Please see her curriculum vitæ for details of conference presentations and workshop papers.

  • Gibbons Summer Research Grant with Stephanie Sun '18, Bowdoin College, Summer 2017
  • Mellon Interdisciplinary Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University, 2014–2015
  • Fulbright Grant to the People's Republic of China, United States Department of State, 2012–2013
  • International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Sciences Research Council, 2012–2013
  • Japanese Studies Fellowship for Doctoral Research, The Japan Foundation, 2012–2013
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Program, United States Department of Education, 2011
  • Akiyama Award, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, Harvard University, 2011
  • Reischauer Institute Graduate Student Summer Research Grant, Harvard University, 2011
  • Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, Harvard University, 2008
  • Japanese Ministry of Education Fellowship, Kyoto University, 2005–2006

Professor Christmas teaches introductory lecture courses on the history of Japan (from Jōmon to Pokémon) with attention to regional and global contexts. Her upper-division seminars delve into histories of the environment, science, borderlands, and colonialism within East Asia more broadly. She welcomes students from all backgrounds with no previous language experience in Japanese. 

  • ASNS2252/HIST2420: Culture and Conquest in Japan: An Introductory History to 1800 (Spring 2018)
  • ASNS2311/HIST2421: Modernity and Identity in Japan, 1800–2000 (Fall 2017)
  • ASNS2310/HIST2890: The Japanese Empire and World War II (Fall 2017)
  • ASNS2890/HIST2891/ENVS2491: Asia in the Anthropocene (Spring 2018)
  • ASNS2892/HIST2892: Maps, Territory, Power (Fall 2016)
  • ASNS3820/HIST3420: Law and Justice in East Asia (Spring 2017)

She also advises students in independent studies and honors projects. She encourages students with advanced reading skills in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to incorporate sources in the original language into their work. Some of the research papers that she has supervised include:

  • Indigenous Labor and the Construction of the Burma Road
  • The "New Woman" in Colonial Korea
  • The Environmental History of Tuna in Japan's Transwar
  • Environmental Ethics and Lake Dianchi in the People's Republic of China
  • Horror Films and Social Anxieties in Japan's Postwar
  • Urban Planning in Meiji Sapporo
  • Nomadic Migrations of Huuchin Barga Mongols in the Japanese Occupation (article)

Professor Christmas advocates strongly for her students who want to travel, research, or work in Asia or who want to pursue postgraduate degrees in Asian Studies. She welcomes requests for letters of recommendation IF and ONLY IF students follow these guidelines:

  1. Strong letters of recommendation take an inordinate amount of time to craft. Please contact her by email or meet with her in person one month in advance of any deadline.
  2. She writes letters ONLY for graduate schools, academic awards and fellowships, study abroad programs, academic internships, and post-graduate jobs. Check with her first before writing down her name and contact information as a reference.
  3. Send her your resume, unofficial transcript, and grant proposal or statement of purpose as soon as possible so that the contents of her letter aligns with application materials. Explain the purpose of the letter (internship, scholarship, job application, etc.) and what she should emphasize in writing.
  4. Also provide a self-addressed stamped envelope if she needs to send a letter of recommendation on your behalf.
  5. If you need future letters, provide two weeks of advance warning so that I can revise your letter on file.
  6. Regardless of the outcome, let her know what happened. If you are traveling out-of-state or abroad, send her a postcard!