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Prof. Dr. Nadin Heé



Global History

Junior Professor (Juniorprofessorin)

Global History of Knowlegde (FU & Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)

Koserstraße 20
Raum A246
14195 Berlin
+49 (30) 838 53902


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Nadin Heé joined the faculty 2015 as an Associate Professor (Juniorprofessor) for Global History of Knowledge at the Freie Universität Berlin and at the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science after a visiting professorship at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and teaching at Zurich University.

She has a background in Empire Studies and a focus on East Asia, but is currently interested in global exploration and exploitation of marine resources, particularly from a history of knowledge and environmental historical perspective.

Her critical engagement with postcolonial theory and theories of violence and trans-imperial aspects of colonial history has been published as Imperiales Wissen und koloniale Gewalt. Japans Herrschaft in Taiwan 1895-1945, (Campus Verlag, 2012), which was awarded the JaDe-Prize.

Heé is leading the research group “Asian Impacts on the Globalization of Knowledge: Marine Resources during the Cold War”. The project seeks to develop a non-eurocentric perspective on the globalization of knowledge about marine resources during the Cold War.  The project is associated with the project “Globalization Processes of Knowledge” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, where Heé is also part of the working group on animals. She is a member of the Berlin Center for the History of Knowledge and project partner in the project “Colonial rule and anticolonial movements from a trans-imperial perspective”, a scholarly network lead by Prof. Dr. Satoshi Mizutani.

In order to carry out archival work, Heé spent around five years in East Asia, mainly in Japan and Taiwan. These research stays mainly at Tokyo University and Academia Sinica have been supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German National Foundation), by scholarships from the Stiftung Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland and research scholarships provided by the Japanese Ministry of Education.

Main Research Interests

Global History, Modern History of East Asia, History of Knowledge, Empire Studies, History of Resources, Environmental History, Maritime History


Scientific Colonialism in Question.

Trans-imperial Knowledge Politics and Practices of Colonial Violence in Taiwan under Japanese Rule

This project seeks to challenge common narratives about Taiwan under Japanese Rule. Until now Taiwan has often been considered a model-colony within the Japanese Empire, its modernization based on scientific investigations and achievements of the General Government, generally referred to in scholarship as 'Scientific Colonialism'. The project questions this master narrative by not only bringing in practices of colonial violence, but telling the story of colonial Taiwan as an entangled history, mutually reinforced by science and violence. It is also an entangled history in the sense that it seeks to overcome narratives that assume unilateral knowledge exchanges from the West to the East as constitutive of Scientific Colonialism in Taiwan. Instead, this project argues that it is ‘trans-imperial’ knowledge politics that formed the core of Japanese rule in Taiwan. In doing so, multilateral knowledge dissemination and exchange of practices of violence between different imperial powers are brought into picture. This lens also lays bare the double bind situation in which Japan found itself; showing that on the one hand, it was the object of the racial and cultural description by other Empires, and on the other, that it itself produced Orientalist stereotypes about people and cultures in its own colonies throughout Asia.

Empire of Tuna. Knowledge Economies and Ocean Regimes in the Territorial Age

Historians generally analyse the expansion of Japan’s empire in terms of the occupation of landmasses and islands and the fight for natural resources, scarcely considering the vast oceans as part of its territory. Yet in this project, I will argue that it is this maritime dimension that acted as a crucial counterbalance within the Japanese empire and allowed it to project its power on a global scale. Moreover, this empire did not vanish after 1945 as the terrestrial one did, but re-emerged and regained significant power in the Cold War years albeit primarily in the form of an informal and economic empire. Thinking extensively about the vast oceans rather than about the terrestrial parts of the Japanese Empire not only offers new perspectives within empire studies or maritime history, but is very much linked to an unconventional regional history of East Asia. I aim at writing a trans-war history, meaning a history of continuity, encompassing the period of the Age of Empire as well as the Cold War. This period has been selected with the goal of scrutinizing current ruptures in the historiography of East Asia, but also within global history or ocean studies. My aim is to use tuna as a monocle to address the impact of this maritime Empire and to offer a new narrative of what Charles Maier called the Age of Territoriality, 1860-1970. Through the lens of tuna I seek to show, that there exist continuities of Japan’s domination of global fisheries and the oceans from the inter-war period up to the Cold War period. It was a global shift to applied science and the paradigm of development aid and technical assistance that reinforced the re-emergence of Japan’s ‘maritime empire’ in early Cold War. This empire I define as the entanglement of Japan’s power position in the regional and global struggle for maritime resources going hand in hand with specific knowledge politics, knowledge economies, and knowledge dissemination.

Leader of Research Group “East Asian Impacts on the Globalization of Knowledge: Trans-war Histories of the Ocean as Resource”

The project seeks to contribute to the newly emerging field of global history of knowledge, which postulates a shift away from a one-sided diffusion model with Europe or the US as the center. The aim is to develop non-Eurocentric or Ethnocentric perspectives on the globalization of knowledge about oceans in both the Age of Imperialism and the Cold War. The project asks to what extent knowledge from the region of East Asia influenced this process of globalization and whether multilateral transfers and circulations were important.

Subproject Xinpei Liu

An Asian Perspective on the Globalization of Aquaculture Knowledge in the mid-late 20th Century

This project explores the globalization of aquaculture knowledge during the middle and later periods of the 20th century from an Asian perspective. Having experienced long-term chaos and instability caused by decades of wars, newly established Asian countries were eager to have sufficient food to feed their people. They are also under pressure to develop their devastated economy through the process of foreign exchange. Aquaculture, a traditional and largely developed livelihood in this area, stood out as a possible solution for both providing high protein food and valuable economic growth. Thanks to abundant local knowledge, most of this area ventured into modern aquaculture and achieved success in the culturing of several species. Due to the high value of alternative protein sources and economics, these species, along with the culturing practices which developed them, have been introduced to African and Latin American countries through the joint effort of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

This project will deal with species such as carp, prawn and tilapia, and take a close look at those pioneering scientific studies, culturing experiments, creative techniques and diverse practices of applications. The purpose is to not only examine the development of aquaculture knowledge within this area, but to also analyse the process of how it became an international enterprise. In doing so, the project aims is to develop a non-Eurocentric perspective and offer multilateral narratives. On an empirical basis I seek to answer the following questions: How was the knowledge produced by scientists put into application? When this knowledge was introduced to other places, what kind of effort were made adapt it to the local conditions?
Did the form and content of knowledge change because of the participation of international organizations such as the FAO in implementation developmental programs of aquaculture? How did knowledge transfer under the frame of south-south cooperation take place?

Subproject Mariko Jacoby

Disaster Preparedness in Japan and Global Transfer of Knowledge, 1900-1965

Located on the Pacific Rim and surrounded by the Pacific and Japanese Sea, Japan has both profited from the resources of the ocean, and suffered from its dangers. With industrial modernity and urbanization magnifying the risk for large-scale natural disasters, disaster preparedness became increasingly viewed as vital to succeed on a global stage. Around 1900, Japan became an internationally trusted source for disaster-related knowledge, especially concerning earthquakes and tsunamis. On the other hand, Japan imported European and American scientific knowledge concerning flood control and coastal protection. In the 1920s and 30s, Japanese society began to develop a national disaster prevention system relying heavily on scientific and expert knowledge, which was institutionalized in the early 1960s. This project aims to trace the global circulation of disaster knowledge from a Japanese perspective and asks what kind of knowledge was selected for dissemination and how it was adapted to the natural environment. Secondly, it asks how the Second World War and the Cold War settings influenced operating disaster prevention regimes, both nationally and globally. 


Imperiales Wissen und koloniale Gewalt. Japans Herrschaft in Taiwan 1895-1945. Frankfurt am Main 2012.


Nadin Heé & Alexandra Przyrembel. "Interview with Manu Goswami (NYU), George Steinmetz (IAS/Michigan), and Andrew Zimmerman (GWU). Decolonizing Knowledge.“ In: Trajectories, 29, 2 (2018), 44-48.

Nadin Heé & Alexandra Przyrembel. "Interview with Manu Goswami (NYU), George Steinmetz (IAS/Michigan), and Andrew Zimmerman (GWU). Decolonizing Knowledge.“ In: Trajectories, 29, 3 (2018), 30-35.

Nadin Heé & Daniel Hedinger. "Transimperial History - Connectivity, Cooperation and Competition.“ In: Journal of Modern European History, 16, 4 (2018), 429-452.

Postkoloniale Studien. In: Staffan Müller-Wille, Carsten Reinhard and Marianne Sommer (eds.), Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart 2017, pp. 80-92.

Kapillare Macht in der Kolonie? Gewalträume in Taiwan unter japanischer Herrschaft. In: Jureit Ulrike (ed.) Umkämpfte Räume. Raumbilder, Ordnungswille und Gewaltmobilisierung, Hamburg 2016, pp. 159-178.

Taiwan under Japanese Rule. Showpiece of a Model Colony? Historiographical Tendencies in Narrating Colonialism. In: History Compass. 2014.

Japan’s Double Bind: ‘Civilised’ Punishment in Colonial Taiwan. In: Sebastian Conrad and Ulrike Schaper, Nadin Heé (ed.): Ordering the Colonial World around the Turn of the 20th Century – Global and Comparative Perspectives. Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung. 1. 2009, pp. 71-87.

Sozialdarwinistische Ideen und “biologische Politik” in Taiwan: Japans double bind um 1900. In: Nach Feierabend. Zürcher Jahrbuch für Wissensgeschichte 2008. Darwin. Berlin, Zürich: Diaphanes. Pp. 87-103.

With Ulrike Schaper: Herrschaftsraum und Raumbeherrschung: Raum in der deutschen und japanischen Kolonialherrschaft, in:  De La Rosa, Sybille u.a. (Hg.): Transdisziplinäre Governanceforschung. Gemeinsam hinter den Staat blicken, Baden-Baden 2008, pp. 37-57.

Von der Inszenierung des Unsichtbaren zur Repräsentation der Nation: Herrscherreisen im Japan des 19. Jahrhunderts. In: Susann Baller, Michael Pesek, Ruth Schilling & Ines Stolpe (Hg.), Die Ankunft des Anderen. Repräsentationen sozialer und politischer Ordnungen in Empfangszeremonien, Frankfurt am Main & New York: Campus 2008, pp. 64-81.

Die japanischen Holzschnittbücher der Grafischen Sammlung im Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. Librarium (2003) pp. 45-61.

Edited Volume

with Sebastian Conrad and Ulrike Schaper: Ordering the Colonial World around the Turn of the 20th Century – Global and Comparative Perspectives. Comparativ. Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung. 1. 2009.

Exhibition Catalogue

with John Carpenter: Surimono: Die Kunst der Anspielung in japanischen Holzdrucken. Museum Rietberg Zürich. Zürich 2008.


With Anja Hopf. National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto und The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (Hg.). Paul Klee. Art in the Making 1883-1940. Tokyo 2011. (Japanese – English)

Bambusmalanleitung von Kenkensai. In: Brauen, Martin. Bambus im alten Japan. Kunst und Kultur an der Schwelle zur Moderne. Die Sammlung Hans Spörry im Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich. Stuttgart 2003, pp. 268-269. (Japanese – German)


Lowy, Dina. The Japanese New Woman. Images of Gender and Modernity, 1910-1920. Piscataway, NJ 2007.  

Saaler, Sven; Koschmann, J. Victor (Hrsg.): Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese History. Colonialism, Regionalism, and Borders. London u.a. 2007.  

Hotta, Eri. Pan-Asianism and Japan’s War. 1931-1945. Basingstoke 2007.

Liu, Michael Shiyung, Prescribing Colonization. The Role of Medical Practices and Politicies in Japan-Ruled Taiwan, 1895-1945. Asia Past & Present. Ann Arbor, MI 2009.

Ts’ai, Caroline Hui-yu, Taiwan in Japan’s Empire Building. An institutional approach to colonial engineering. Academia Sinica on East Asia. London 2009.  

OSA Geschichte