Event – Indigenous Futures Amidst Settler Disposal: Japanese Wastelanding in Ainu Mosir

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November for NicHE - 2023 Fundraising Campaign

Indigenous Futures Amidst Settler Disposal: Japanese Wastelanding in Ainu Mosir

In-person | November 24, 2023 | 12:00PM – 2:00PM

108N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, M5S 3K7

Sponsor: Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Institute


Settler extractivist projects seek to unearth “resources” that can generate profit, while also hollowing land to create an “industrial sink” (Liboiron 2021) to bury waste. In Japan’s Indigenous Ainu land, two communities offered to host Japan’s most radioactive nuclear waste in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) – the most poisonous “sink” – for perpetuity. These sites where vibrant Ainu communities thrived, were obliterated by 19th century smallpox epidemics. Today, they host fisheries, aquaculture, and windfarms – asserting new settler infrastructures and submerging ancestral Ainu care for the land. In this talk, Lewallen considers how distinct notions of time – from Indigenous futurity to settler time – intersect with what may be called ‘nuclear time-scales,’ the expanse of time required for the toxicity of nuclear waste to be halved.

Ann-Elise Lewallen

Ann-Elise Lewallen

Pacific & Asian Studies, University of Victoria, British Columbia

Tong Lam

Tong Lam

Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, Asian Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Historical Studies, UTM


Ann-Elise Lewallen is an anthropologist who support Indigenous empowerment through decolonial mapping, ecosystem health, and restoring Indigenous Land relations in East and South Asia. Her first monograph is The Fabric of Indigeneity: Contemporary Ainu Identity and Gender in Settler Colonial Japan (2016), and her book-in-progress is The Banyan Tree and the Fish with no Scales.

Chair: Tong Lam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies and the Graduate Department of History and Director of the Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at the Asian Institute. His current book-length study employs lenses of media studies, environmentalism, and science and technology studies (STS) to examine the politics and poetics of mobilization in China’s special zones in the socialist and postsocialist eras. As a visual artist, Lam has utilized his lens-based work to uncover hidden evidence of state- and capital-precipitated violence—both fast and slow—across various contexts. At present, his research-based visual projects particularly delve into the intersection between technology and military violence, as well as the landscapes of industrial and postindustrial ruination.

Sponsor: Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Institute

Feature Image: “File:Sapporo Ainu Culture Promotion Center 201705.jpg” by 禁樹なずな is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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