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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


Thursday 2pm–3pm. Please sign up here.

On appointment via email.

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.

Summer Semester 2020

Are we in the Age of the Anthropocene? Historical Approaches to Climate Change and Environmental Management

Environmental History of the Cold War


Summer Semester 2019

Trans-Pacific Histories from Colonial Encounters to Cold War Scenarios

Konflikt, Kooperation, oder Kapital? Der pazifische Raum im 19.-21. Jahrhundert

Umwelthistorische Perspektiven auf die Neueste Geschichte


Winter Semester 2018/19

Theorie, Methode und Geschichte der Geschichtswissenschaft

Oceans in Science and Fiction

The Japanese Empire Among Empires

Summer Semester 2018

Oceans in Global History

Science and Technology in the Cold War (MA Global History)

Introduction to Global Intellectual History

Summer Semester 2017

Oceans in Global History

Science and Technology in the Cold War


Summer Semester 2016

Global History of Environmentalism

Wissensgeschichte des Kalten Krieges

(Post) koloniale Wissensgeschichte(n)

Einführung in Theorie und Methode der Geschichte


Winter Semester 2015/16

Regionalism in (Post) Modern East Asia

Einführung in Theorie und Methode der Geschichte

Summer Semester 2015

Provincializing the West and Global Circulation of Knowledge? Postcolonial Approaches in the History of Knowledge

From Japanese to U.S. Imperialism? Encounters in the Asia Pacific, 19th -21st Century


Winter Semester 2013/14

(all courses offered in the winter term 2013/14 were held at HU Berlin)

Abschlusskolloquium Bachelor/Magister

Asia in Global History

Einführung in die Geschichte Japans

Japanischer Kolonialismus in globaler Perspektive: Lektürekurs

Kooperationen und Konflikte: Japan und China als transnationale Geschichte, 16. - 21. Jahrhundert


Winter Semester 2011/12

Japan in Asien 1850-1950

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.

How Tuna became a Global Commons

My current book project examines how tuna became a global commons. It is situated at the intersection of Global History, History of Knowledge, Environmental and Oceanic History. In the project, I follow tuna on three levels, first, as a migratory species. I trace how human labor, knowledge production, and resource extraction, and not least imperialism and international politics have been shaped by its migration. Second, I follow tuna and its commodification, such as in form of tinned tuna or sashimi, and thirdly on the level of discourse, mainly, how the fish has been appropriated on an imperial and national level.
By following tuna on these three levels between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of twenty-first century, we are able to gain new insights into the history of natural resource management and political ecologies of ocean regimes. To date, the history of resources and resource management has been the domain of economic historians and political scientists. I seek to show how resource history can be re-conceptualized when we start with the fish and take the materiality of the ocean as well as ecological metabolism in commodification processes into account.
By tracing tuna as a migratory species, I endeavor to demonstrate how following tuna through the oceans and charting its migratory patterns and related environmental factors, such as currents, enabled human beings to use it as a global commons and no longer as a local good. More precisely, I show how this became possible only through the development of specialized techniques to fish them on the high sea, something that had previously not been possible and had meant tuna could only be caught and consumed in local waters by local actors from the Mediterranean bays to the coasts of the South Pacific or coasts that faced the Atlantic. I argue that it was Japan’s imperialism that led to the definition and exploitation of tuna no longer as a local commons for societies, such as fishery villages all over the world, but also a global one, available on the high seas for those able to access it in the first half of the twentieth century.
If we track the commodification of tuna and analyze how this living resource has been appropriated by states as national symbols, it becomes even more apparent that tuna has played an integral role in resource imperialism and imperial expansion both as an economic resource and as symbolic capital. And this process is by no means limited to an intra-imperial history of the Japanese Empire but very much a transimperial story: a story of cooperation, competition and conflict among and across empires.
It was technology transfer and fisheries diplomacy – often with imperial legacies – that played a crucial role in negotiating access to and management of this marine resource globally within the reconfiguration of oceanic territoriality in the second half of the twentieth century. The disappearance of local, seasonal fishing practices such as the Mattanza in the Mediterranean was fundamentally linked to the possibilities of accessing the fish offshore that came with new forms of techniques, knowledge and international ocean regimes.
The global market for tuna further illustrates how critical not only terrestrial but also oceanic frontiers were to global resource management and political ecologies in the twentieth century, and will continue to be well into the twenty-first century. Looking at these processes while bringing human- and non-human species interaction and dynamics of ecological metabolisms to the foreground shows much more than a global commodity chain of tuna cans or frozen fish. Among the crucial findings is that I can show how the opening up of tuna frontiers is deeply related to environmental labor migration of tuna workers or climate change.

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.


"Negotiating Migratory Tuna: Territorialization of the Oceans, Trans-war Knowledge and Fisheries Diplomacy." Diplomatic History 44, 3 (2020), 413-27.

Tuna as an Economic Resource and Symbolic Capital in Japan’s “Imperialism of the Sea” In: Rotem Kowner et al. (eds.) Animals and Human Societ in Asia: Historial and Ethical Perspectives, 2019, 213-134.

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

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

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

Postkoloniale Studien.” In: Staffan Müller-Wille, Carsten Reinhard and Marianne Sommer (eds.), Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart 2017, 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, 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, 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, 87-103.

With Ulrike Schaper: Herrschaftsraum und Raumbeherrschung: Raum in der deutschen und japanischen Kolonialherrschaft, in:  De La Rosa, Sybille et al. (Eds.): Transdisziplinäre Governanceforschung. Gemeinsam hinter den Staat blicken, Baden-Baden 2008, 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, 64-81.

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

Edited Volume

with Stefan Hübner, Ian Miller, and William Tsutsui. Tentative title: Oceanic Japan. University of Hawaii Press. (work in progress)

with Sebastian Conrad and Ulrike Schaper:Ordering the Colonial World around the Turn of the 20th Century – Global and Comparative Perspectives. 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.

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, 268-269.

Reviews (selection)

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

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

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