Indigenous Futures Amidst Settler Disposal: Japanese Wastelanding in Ainu Mosir

November 24, 2023 | 12:00PM - 2:00PM
Asian Institute, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies

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This event took place in-person at Room 108N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, M5S 3K7
Settler extractivist projects seek to unearth “resources” that can generate profit, while also hollowing land to create an “industrial sink” (Liboiron 2021) to bury waste. In Japan’s Indigenous Ainu land, two communities offered to host Japan’s most radioactive nuclear waste in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) – the most poisonous “sink” – for perpetuity. These sites where vibrant Ainu communities thrived, were obliterated by 19th century smallpox epidemics. Today, they host fisheries, aquaculture, and windfarms – asserting new settler infrastructures and submerging ancestral Ainu care for the land. In this talk, Lewallen considered how distinct notions of time - from Indigenous futurity to settler time – intersect with what may be called ‘nuclear time-scales,’ the expanse of time required for the toxicity of nuclear waste to be halved.
Ann-Elise Lewallen is an anthropologist who supports Indigenous empowerment through decolonial mapping, ecosystem health, and restoring Indigenous Land relations in East and South Asia. Her first monograph is The Fabric of Indigeneity: Contemporary Ainu Identity and Gender in Settler Colonial Japan (2016), and her book-in-progress is The Banyan Tree and the Fish with no Scales.
Discussant: Mary X. Mitchell is an Assistant Professor of the Centre from Criminology & Sociolegal Studies. Mitchell's work centers on the intersections of science and technology with law and environmental social movements in the nuclear era. Focusing on radiological risk, her research examines the production of environmental inequality in the United States and transnationally.
Chair: Tong Lam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies and the Graduate Department of History and Director of the Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at the Asian Institute. His current book-length study employs lenses of media studies, environmentalism, and science and technology studies (STS) to examine the politics and poetics of mobilization in China’s special zones in the socialist and postsocialist eras. As a visual artist, Lam has utilized his lens-based work to uncover hidden evidence of state- and capital-precipitated violence—both fast and slow—across various contexts. At present, his research-based visual projects particularly delve into the intersection between technology and military violence, as well as the landscapes of industrial and postindustrial ruination.
Sponsor: Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Institute
Asian Institute, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies


Ann-Elise Lewallen Headshot
Ann-Elise Lewallen

Pacific & Asian Studies, University of Victoria, British Columbia

Mary X. Mitchell
Mary X. Mitchell

Assistant Professor, Centre of Criminology & Sociological Studies

Headshot of Tong Lam
Tong Lam

Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, Asian Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Historical Studies, UTM