Spawning Comparisons: Transnational Connections and the Transformation of Japanese Salmon

A talk by Dr. Heather Anne Swanson, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Aarhus University

Talk Abstract:
Anthropologists have long debated practices of comparison. How might such conversations be engaged in the context of more-than-human research? Focusing on the case of environmental management in Hokkaido, Japan, this talk explores how people’s comparative practices become powerful forces in the making of entangled human and nonhuman worlds.

Since the mid-19th century, agricultural development and fisheries management in northern Japan have been profoundly shaped by how people both within and beyond Japan have compared Hokkaido’s landscapes to those of other places. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Japanese officials sought to colonize Hokkaido and develop its lands and waters in order to make the new Japanese nation-state more legibly “modern” to Euro-American audiences. In doing so, they engaged in heterodox modes of analogic thinking that reached out to such diverse places as the American West, the Russian East, New Zealand, and Chile. Today, Hokkaido residents’ – including fishermen, environmental organizers, Ainu activists, and scientists – continue to make generative comparisons between the island’s forests, fields, and waters, and those of other places as they grapple with and challenge the ongoing presences of earlier comparisons. Through such examples, this talk probes comparison-making as a key process in the transformation of more-than-human assemblages.

More about Dr Swanson:
Heather Anne Swanson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Aarhus University, as well as Director of the Aarhus University Centre for Environmental Humanities ( With a long-standing interest in fish, rivers, and oceans, her current work broadly explores how political economies and ecologies are intertwined. She is a co-editor of Domestication Gone Wild: Politics and Practices of Multispecies Relations (Duke University Press) and Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (Minnesota University Press). Her more-than-human monograph, Spawning Modern Fish: Transnational Comparison in the Making of Japanese Salmon, is forthcoming from University of Washington Press in Spring 2022.

October 11, 2021
2 – 3:15 pm EST, Zoom
Admission: Free, with registration
Registration: Register here

View the full fall schedule here.

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