Assistant Professor


PhD Harvard University
BA Yale College
My name is John Kanbayashi (né Hayashi) and I am a historian of environment, science, and technology. My research seeks to understand how people in East Asia came to know and use the non-human world in new ways amidst global political turmoil, with a focus on Japan and Taiwan in the 20th century.
My current book project, Hydraulic Taiwan, examines Taiwan's rivers as sites of contestation and transformation under the rule of the Japanese empire (1895-1945) and the Republic of China (1945-present). In it, I argue for the importance of the watershed–as scientific concept and infrastructural object–in propelling state power into remote regions and the lives of people residing there. This project has received support from the Fulbright Program, the D. Kim Foundation for the History of Science and Technology in East Asia, the Akiyama Life Science Foundation, and Harvard University.
I am also engaged in research on the history of climate science in Japan. This work pursues the question of how people in Japan came to understand climate as something that was measurable, national, and modifiable. Finally, I maintain a keen interest in science and environment in the early overseas Japanese diaspora, from rice farms in Texas to research stations in Brazil.

Research Interests

Envirotech, colonial science, infrastructure, conservation, environmental history, disasters, climate, modern East Asia, Japan, Taiwan, Japanese diaspora

Courses Taught

STSC 1880: Environment & Society

Faculty Bookshelf