Stanford Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) Director and Associate Professor of History Jun Uchida has been awarded a Fellowship for Advanced Social Science Research on Japan from the National Endowment for the Humanities to complete her book project, Provincializing Empire: Ōmi Merchants in the Japanese Transpacific Diaspora.
Professor Uchida is currently writing a global history of the so-called Ōmi merchants (Ōmi shōnin), entrepreneurial peddlers from the province of Ōmi (present-day Shiga) whose wholesale activities once spanned the early modern Japanese archipelago. In the course of prior research on colonial Korea, she was surprised to discover that Ōmi merchants and their descendants played a disproportionate role in Japan’s empire, creating a transpacific diaspora that stretched from Seoul to Vancouver. Her forthcoming book shows how Ōmi-Shiga natives capitalized on the commercial legacies of their forebears to expand into new domains during the modern era—from foreign trade and emigration to work, study, and travel abroad. By comparing this little-known merchant diaspora with its Chinese and European counterparts, her project brings into productive dialogue the seldom-paired histories of region and empire, even as it bridges the disciplinary divides between early modern and modern, local and global, colonialism and migration.