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Title: Feathers, Fertilizer and States of Nature: Uses of Albatrosses in the U.S.-Japan Borderlands
Authors: Kreitman, Paul
Advisors: Garon, Sheldon M
Howell, David L
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Environmental history
Global history
Hawaiian history
Japanese history
Political ecology
U.S. history
Subjects: History
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: States and scientists together produce Nature as a form of magic to assert sovereignty over territory. The environmental history of the Pacific is usually told as a story of ecological imperialism, in which unsustainable Western consumption habits resulted in extractive economic processes that degraded both the people of the Pacific and their environment. This declensionist narrative relies on a set of binaries - Culture versus Nature, invaders versus indigenes - that fail to capture the fluid political economy of a rapidly globalizing world. Instead, this study charts the various ways in which sovereignty has been produced and reproduced in the North Pacific since the mid-nineteenth century. Rather than narrate the despoliation of a pristine wilderness by human activity, it focusses on the manner in which our understanding of the Pacific as wilderness has been historically constructed, often in tandem with the very activities it criticizes, and mobilized for political ends. American and Japanese entrepreneurs began to value North Pacific islands as sources of guano and plumage, and lobbied their governments to annex them as sovereign territory. At first, sovereignty was most effectively asserted simply by inhabiting islands and exploiting their resources. This exploitation rendered bird islands newly accessible to ornithologists, who catalogued their biodiversity in a manner that portrayed them as unspoiled wilderness space. After the annexation of Hawaii, the U.S. government began evicting Japanese hunters from Pacific islands in the name of wildlife protection. Meanwhile in Japan, agronomists mobilized Liebig’s soil chemistry to argue that the nation faced a critical nutrient deficit, that could be remedied by annexing new islands for development as guano mines. After defeat in World War II, Japanese ornithologists pushed their government to adopt American notions of wildlife conservation - to show reintegration into the international community, but also to reassert Japanese sovereignty over offshore islands. Conserving nature also serves to conserve sovereignty. KEYWORDS: sovereignty, guano, plumage, wildlife conservation, biodiversity, ornithology, wilderness, frontier, territory, colonialism, migration, political ecology, environmental history, sustainability, ecological imperialism, global history, international relations, William Cronon, Richard Drayton, Stuart Elden, Lisa Ford, Bruno Latour, Adam McKeown, Stanley Tambiah, Pacific, Hawaii, Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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