A Global Intellectual History of the Pacific

About Project

The The "Pan-Pacific Bell" (Genkakuji, Koishikawa, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo). This bell was transferred from Genkakuji to Nanyoji on the island of Saipan in 1937. It was missing after WWII before its rediscovery in Odessa, Texas, U.S.A. in 1965 and its display at the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival in 1974. Then it was returned to Genkakuji. This hanging bell thus traveled across the Pacific Ocean in the mid-20th century (photo by T. Baji).

The Pacific Ocean is not only a geographical entity composed of a large mass of water and myriad islands, but also a conceptual and ideological construct represented by images, perceptions, and visions of the people engaged with this thalassic space. Who has spoken of the ‘Pacific’ and what meaning has been invested in it? For whom has the ‘Pacific’ been conceived, and what intentions lay behind such conception? What images, representations, and systems of meaning about the ‘Pacific’ have we inherited? ‘A Global Intellectual History of the Pacific’ weaves a novel intellectual history to answer these questions.

This project analyses the writings (e.g., books, papers, journals, pamphlets, novels, travelogues, and narratives) authored in modern and contemporary times by people of the Pacific rim countries, those traversing the Pacific, and those inhabiting the Pacific islands near the equator as well as in the southern hemisphere. It seeks to discover the diverse perceptions, visions, and concepts of the ‘Pacific’ embedded in these writings. The project includes exploring such intellectual or imaginary constructs about the specific regions of the Pacific, including Oceania, Melanesia, and the Nan’yō (or the ‘South Seas’) region (conceived thus in modern Japan). Our intellectual endeavour therefore encompasses aspects of Japanese intellectual history, Australian and New Zealand intellectual history, American intellectual history (and so forth), as well as the intellectual history of the island regions. Given the Pacific’s deep entanglement with the history of modern colonialism, our project also engages European intellectual history and postcolonial thought. Moreover, by analysing how the various conceptions of the ‘Pacific’ born in different regions have been related to, and have interacted with one another, we will attempt to carve out a distinct scholarly area—‘Pacific Intellectual History’—that cannot be fully reduced to the history of any single nation (for more, click ‘Project Overview’ tab). (May 2021)

Project Overview


NameAffilitationResearch Expertise
Tomohito Baji
(Principal Investigator)
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of TokyoHistory of imperial and international thought
Takuya FurutaNishogakusha UniversityHistory of British political thought, the methodology of intellectual history
Yoshi KamimuraKansai Gakuin UniversityHistory of British imperial thought, global intellectual history
Naoki NishidaGraduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of TokyoFrench history, comparative welfare state politics
Aerim RyuKyushu UniversityIntellectual history of modern East Asia
Sana SakihamaEast Asian Academy for New Liberal ArtsIntellectual history of modern Japan and Okinawa
Shaun YajimaGraduate School of Economics, the University of TokyoHistory of economics in the 20th Century