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Wildlife and Sovereignty Conservation on Hawaii’s Desert Islands, 1898-1911

March 20, 2018 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Shortly after Annexation, American ornithologists, naval officers and administrators began a campaign to repel Japanese “bird pirates” from Hawaii’s desert islands. The campaign was waged at a number of levels: through the law courts, diplomatic channels between Washington and Tokyo, and direct interdiction of bird hunters by the U.S. naval and customs vessels. The campaigners were motivated by a number of things: concern for the welfare of the birds themselves, but also racial angst about Japanese transPacific migration, as well as the desire to defend American sovereignty over islands that might have value as telegraph cable landing stations. The campaign culminated with President Theodore Roosevelt’s executive order establishing the Hawaiian Islands Reservation, after which American naturalists set about transforming Hawaii’s desert islands from sites of commodity extraction to uninhabited (but still sovereign) wilderness. Today these islands form the nucleus of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which with an area of 583,000 square miles constitutes the world’s third largest nature reserve.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
5:30pm – 7:00pm
3600 N & 36th St NW
Paul Kreitman is currently an Assistant Professor of 20th century Japanese history in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. His research interests include the environmental history of Japan, science, technology and society studies, and the global history of sovereignty since the 19th century. He received his PhD from Princeton in 2015 with a dissertation titled “Feathers, Fertilizer and States of Nature: Uses of Albatrosses in the U.S.Japan Borderlands”. He is currently revising this into a monograph with the working title of Japan’s Desert Islands: Nature and Sovereignty Conservation. His second project, tentatively titled Excremental Modernity, explores the political ecology of shit in 20th century urban and periurban Japan. An extract from “Attacked by Excrement: the political ecology of shit in wartime and postwar Tokyo” will be published in the journal Environmental History in April 2018. The preprint is available now from his website, paulkreitman.net.


March 20, 2018
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm