Ikuko Asaka

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Personal profile

Personal profile

I am a historian of the United States with an emphasis on the nineteenth century, imperialism, race, gender, and sexuality. Trained in U.S. and Japanese institutions, I have always taken comparative and transnational approaches in my study of history. 

Research Interests

Nineteenth-century U.S.; continental and overseas expansion; women, race, gender, and sexuality; African American history; Atlantic/Pacific world 

Professional Information

My first book, Tropical Freedom: Climate, Settler Colonialism, and Black Exclusion in the Age of Emancipation (Duke, 2017), argues that during the late eighteenth and mid nineteenth centuries British and American expansionists and free Black activists produced different imaginings of an Atlantic world that variously and often contrastingly mapped Black freedom within its geographic bounds and that these conflicting geographies of race and freedom became inseparably intertwined with U.S. and British North American settler colonial formations.  Importantly, both promoters and protesters of geographic management of race employed tropes of domesticity and intra-racial reproduction as well as climatic idioms born of the centuries-long development of the plantation economies in the Americas. 

I have also published articles on fugitive slave narratives, women's antislavery activism, and self-emancipated people in Canada, all set in transatlantic settings, and on the intersectional articulations of race, gender, and class among white and American Americans in the context of U.S. expansion into Japan. 

I am currently working on two projects: tracing the origins of U.S. imperial engagements with islands and their racial, sexual, and labor aspects, and investigating the impact of U.S. expansion into East Asia on domestic racial and gender formations and on the development of Japanese racial identity. 


PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Gender and Women's History Program, 2010

MA, Doshisha University, American Studies

BA, Doshisha University, Political Science

Honors & Awards

Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors Award, 2016-18

New Faculty Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 2012-13


Summer Stipend, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2020  

Franklin Research Grant, American Philosophical Society, 2020


HIST275 African American History to 1877
HIST285 U.S. Gender History to 1877
HIST385 Transnational Sexualities
HIST482 Slavery in the United States
HIST570 Race, Gender, and Sexuality in North American Colonialisms

Office Address

419C Greg Hall
810 S. Wright St.
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801

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Research Output

Tropical Freedom: Climate, Settler Colonialism, and Black Exclusion in the Age of Emancipation

Asaka, I., Nov 2017, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 304 p.

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook

  • African-American Migration and the Climatic Language of Anglophone Settler Colonialism

    Asaka, I., Jan 2020, Crossing Empires: Taking U.S. History into Transimperial Terrain. Hoganson, K. L. & Sexton, J. (eds.). Duke University Press, p. 205-221 (American Encounters/Global Interactions).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Different Tales of John Glasgow: John Brown’s Evolution to Slave Life in Georgia

    Asaka, I., Apr 1 2018, In : Journal of Black Studies. 49, 3, p. 212-234 23 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Exiles in America: Canadian Anti-Black Racism and the Meaning of Nation in the Age of the 1848 Revolutions

    Asaka, I., Apr 15 2018, Race and Nation in the Age of Emancipations. Stewart, W. N. & Marks, J. G. (eds.). Athens: University of Georgia Press, p. 53-68 16 p. (Race in the Atlantic World, 1700-1900).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Press / Media