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Visiting Fellow, 2014 – 2015

Lisa Onaga


Photo by Erielle Bakkum

Lisa Onaga works on the history of science and technology in Japan, with a focus on questions about the ownership and authorship of knowledge in relation to biological materiality at the interface of invertebrate and human life in agricultural, laboratory, and industrial settings. Her forthcoming monograph, Cocoon Cultures: The Entangled History of Biology and Silk in Modern Japan examines how the pursuit of the perfect silkworm cocoon served as a key means for exploring how genes and environments interact in sexually reproducing living things, during a period of Imperial commitment to foster industrial raw silk manufacturing and trade. This sociologically informed history of sericulture and genetics has given rise to a second project dedicated to the archipelagic peripheries of Japan. Under the working title of “Biomaterial Matters,” different historical interfaces among silkworms, plants, pathogens, humans, and silk are examined toward a suite of interdisciplinary histories.

Onaga was a member of the history faculty at Nanyang Technological University from 2012 until 2018 when she stepped down to undertake new responsibilities at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Previously, she was a fellow at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics.

For more details on her research and publications, please visit her profile page at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.


Knowing and Doing: Text and Labor in Asian Handwork

2014 – 2016