19 January 2024 • FacultyResearchSTEM Yoshikawa Earns Grant to Study Coral in Taiwan

Professor of History and Asian Studies Lisa Yoshikawa was awarded a grant from the Global Taiwan Institute to continue her research on the history of coral science and international scientific cooperation.

As a 2022-23 Fulbright Scholar, Professor of History and Asian Studies Lisa Yoshikawa traveled to Taiwan last year to study how imperialism in the Asia-Pacific region yielded interrelated consequences in diplomatic, scientific, social and environmental sectors.

In late 2023, Yoshikawa was awarded a grant from the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) to return to the island and continue her research on the history of coral science, its importance for the planet’s health and its potential as a driver of diplomatic engagement. With the support of this latest grant, she will investigate “Taiwan’s unique world position as a coral science leader and demonstrate how such public diplomacy might extend to broader state-level relationships in the future,” as she explains. Due to tense cross-straits political relationship with the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan today is recognized diplomatically by only 12 states, 75 percent of which are small countries reliant on coral reefs for their economic and environmental lives, she says.

“The value of coral science, education and technology continues to increase as climate change intensifies alongside repercussions on humans,” Yoshikawa notes. “Taiwan is in an ideal position to take on an added leadership role in this realm and help those in need. Sharing Taiwan’s unique and intangible possession in coral science is additionally an increasingly viable factor in winning back recently lost diplomatic allies for whom the issue of coral loss is dire, or to many others who will face similar struggles in the near future.”

Based in Taipei during her sabbatical this spring, Yoshikawa is serving as a visiting scholar at Academia Sinica, where some of the world’s foremost coral experts work. Her research will continue tracing the past century of Taiwan’s coral research, its intersections with past public diplomacy and its promise for future international policy and environmental conservation. Through the GTI grant, she will focus on Taiwan’s track record as a center of Asia-Pacific coral scientific diplomacy, from the Japanese colonial and the Republican years, as well as more recent coral studies by Taiwan-based scholars and the international cooperation they have led in the context of climate change and justice politics.

GTI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to insightful, cutting-edge and inclusive research on policy issues regarding Taiwan and its place in the world. Its mission is to enhance the relationship between Taiwan and other countries, especially the U.S., through policy research and programs that promote better public understanding about Taiwan and its people.

Yoshikawa is a scholar of imperial Japan, focusing on knowledge production and their tangible impacts on people and the planet. Her 2017 book, Making History Matter: Kuroita Katsumi and the Construction of Imperial Japan (Harvard), offers a cultural and intellectual history of an interwar Japanese historian and his generation. Her teaching interests span from the medieval Mongols to contemporary Asia-Pacific relations, and from national histories to transnational memory wars.

Joining the HWS faculty in 2006, Yoshikawa has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Henry Luce Foundation, and Freeman-ASIA, among other organizations. Her recent paper presentations — delivered in Spain, the U.K., Taiwan and South Korea — have covered the intersection of history and the environment, historical science and empire building, among other topics. She earned her B.A. from Wellesley College and M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Yale University.