Announcing the Release of Bodies and Structures: Deep-mapping Modern East Asian History 1.0

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We are pleased to announce the release of Bodies and Structures: Deep-mapping Modern East Asian History 1.0 ( Bodies and Structures is a platform for researching and teaching spatial histories of East Asia and the larger worlds of which they were a part. Built using the open-source platform Scalar, the site combines individually-authored, media-rich content modules with conceptual maps and visualizations, which reveal thematic, historical, and geographic connections between the modules. Each module is based around a translated primary source or sources. These translations are also included in the site.

Bodies and Structures 1.0 focuses on early to mid-twentieth century Japan and East Asia shaped by Japanese imperialism. The modules tell spatial stories about:

  • colonial political activists;
  • interethnic intimacies and regional migration;
  • department stores and empire;
  • the transformative potential of the modern drugstore;
  • Chinese settlement on the Mongolian frontier;
  • the firebombing of Tokyo; and,
  • the photographic eye of an American army dentist in occupied Okinawa.

We invite you and your students to use these modules and their interconnections to analyze how boundary-making and mobility inform each other; how spatially-constituted ideas of progress or difference have taken shape in different locales; and how events and actors construct and reconstruct places and their meanings within shifting imperial contexts. Above all, we invite you to explore, get lost, and find your own pathways through the materials.

Modules and Contributors

“What We’re Doing (Overview Essay)” (David R. Ambaras and Kate McDonald)

“Border Controls, Migrant Networks, and People out of Place between Japan and China” (David R. Ambaras)

“Mitsukoshi: Consuming Places” (Noriko Aso)

“Place Annihilation” (David Fedman)

“Cai Peihuo’s Inner Territory” (Kate McDonald)

“The Okinawa Memories Initiative” (Dustin Wright)

“Xing An: A Contested Borderland” (Shellen X. Wu)

“The Drugstore as Contact Zone” (Timothy Yang)

Useful Guides

How to Use This Site

Guide to Using Bodies and Structures for Student Research Projects

Sample Visualizations

Going Forward

We are now working on Bodies and Structures 2.0. This version will expand the geo-historical scope to introduce materials from late-Qing and Republican-era China, Vietnam, and Korea, as well as additional materials on Japan and its maritime frontiers, and incorporate new tools for analyzing the site’s materials. Look for more information in Summer 2019.

Follow Bodies and Structures on social media

Twitter: @bodiesandstruct


We Want to Hear from You

Please share your feedback with us at

Or get in touch with us to propose a module!