March 12, 2021: Sources of Disaster: New Epistemic Perspectives in Post-3.11 Japan, 16 March 2021​, 8:30pm JST / 12:30 pm CET / 7:30 am EST​ ​via​ ​Zoom (105min.)

Sources of Disaster

New Epistemic Perspectives in Post-3.11 Japan

A T​each311 + COVID-19 Collective Roundtable Discussion​
16 March 2021​ @ 8:30pm JST / 12:30 pm CET / 7:30 am EST​ ​via​ ​Zoom

Co-Organizers: Chelsea Szendi-Schieder (Aoyama Gakuin University), Lisa Onaga (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science), and Kristina Buhrman (Florida State University)

How do or should the triple disasters of 2011 in Tōhoku Japan serve as a “lesson” for future generations? In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of March 11th, 2011, this roundtable panel discussion explores the entwined actions of teaching, research, and remembering the compound disaster: a magnitude 9 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant explosion. This virtual panel brings together researchers from history and anthropology to discuss key historical and contemporary sources that are proving critical for students (secondary school and higher) to study as they look back upon the disasters’ epistemic legacy.

What functions as a “source” varies with the particular relationships that individuals and groups have with knowledge. By recognizing how knowledge functions among communities of disaster survivors, NPO-workers, environmental advocates, and believers, in addition to technical experts, we pay attention to how knowledge is generated, preserved, owned, translated, used, or ignored in the process of recovery. These bearers and consumers of knowledge also face or accept, to different degrees, the challenges of countering eroding memories of the triple disasters, or willful disinterest in engaging with the recent past. The residues of scholarly work additionally raise lingering questions about the responsibilities that scholars have to the communities with whom they interact.

This panel includes feminist and religious studies perspectives alongside those from the historical and social studies of science and technology, and the environment, in order to recognize and appreciate the voices of persons whose lives in and around Japan have been informed by the triple disasters. The discussion will feature scholars whose research has been shaped by the Tōhoku disasters at different moments during their careers, including scholars who specialize in or model methodological teaching. We hope this roundtable discussion will help elevate historical empathy about the disasters and serve as an important step toward developing multi-perspective scholarship that respects the lived experiences of the disasters.


Julia Mariko Jacoby (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

Juraku Kohta (Tokyo Denki University)

David Slater (Sophia University) & Anna Wiemann (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität (LMU) Munich) & Stella Winter, Alexander Dekant, and Jakob Herzum (LMU Munich)

Levi McLaughlin (North Carolina State University)

& special guest discussant, Angela Marie Ortiz (Place to Grow)

Event duration: 105 min.

Julia Mariko Jacoby is a historian of science with a special interest in environmental history. Her research focuses on the history of modern Japan and is informed by methods of global history. She is completing a PhD project on Disaster Preparedness in Japan and Global Transfer of Knowledge 1890-1970 at the University of Freiburg, for which work was also carried out at the Universities of Osaka, Tokyo, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. In this research, she looks at the impact of natural disasters on Japanese society and the implementation of strategies against them, thereby tracing the development of the modern disaster preparedness system in Japan and situating it in the context of global expert knowledge production and the circulation of disaster-related knowledge.

Kohta Juraku is a professor at Tokyo Denki University (TDU), Japan. He has worked on sociological studies of the governance of risky technologies and the social-learning process from major technological failures. Before joining TDU, he worked at the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Management at the University of Tokyo from 2008 to 2012, during which he spent over a year at the Department of Nuclear Engineering, UC Berkeley as a visiting scholar. He received his PhD from the University of Tokyo for his research on the uses of nuclear power. As a sociologist of science and technology, he has conducted participant observation of nuclear experts’ responses to the Fukushima nuclear disaster both in Japan and the US and has over a decade of experience in collaborative but critical exchange with engineers and practitioners in nuclear and other fields.

“Tôhoku kara no koe/Voices from Tōhoku” ( Co-Panelists: David Slater (Professor, Sophia University) is a cultural anthropologist, archiver, and curator of the largest collection of digital oral narratives on the 3.11 triple disasters yet: “Voices from Tohoku: Digital Archive of Disaster, Recovery and Mobilization.” Anna Wiemann (Assistant Professor, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich) has done extensive fieldwork on networks and mobilization processes in the Japanese anti-nuclear movement after Fukushima. Stella WinterAlexander Dekant, and Jakob Herzum are first-year master’s students at LMU Munich’s Japan-Center. During their undergraduate studies, all three have spent a year studying in Japan.

Levi McLaughlin is Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at North Carolina State University. He is the co-author and co-editor of Kōmeitō: Politics and Religion in Japan (2014) and the author of Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan (2019). He has published and presented widely on religious responses to disaster since 2011.

Angela Marie Ortiz is a Colombian American multinational, long-term resident of Japan, with over 30+ years living in rural Japan and Tokyo. She is a social impact entrepreneur, CSR professional, author, and fitness enthusiast. Her career began as an early childhood educator in Tokyo in 2005. She transitioned into social impact after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters of northeast Japan where she established Place To Grow ( –– a community-building nonprofit using fitness and language exchange to Inspire and connect children in the rural province of Tohoku. In 2016 she moved into the corporate sector, supporting companies like H&M and Adidas Japan to launch and grow social and environmental sustainability programs.

The​ Teach311 + COVID-19 Collective​ began in 2011 as a joint project of the ​Forum for the History of Science in Asia​ and the ​Society for the History of Technology Asia Network​ and is currently expanded in collaboration with the ​Max Planck Institute for the History of Science ​(​Artifacts, Action, Knowledge)​ and​ Nanyang Technological University-Singapore​. Members of the Collective include educators, researchers, artists, students, and survivors representing a wide range of countries, languages, and disciplines. Together, we focus on understanding disasters, past and unfolding, through communication and empathy. For more information, please visit​.


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