Sidney X. Lu


I am a social and cultural historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan, with research interests in the areas of migration, settler colonialism, gender, race and transnational history. I earned my Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013.

My current book manuscript, Malthusianism, Trans-Pacific Migration, and the Making of Japanese Settler Colonialism, 1868-1961, is a study of the intersections between the politics of demography, emigration and colonial expansion in the history of modern Japan. It locates the discourse of overpopulation at the intellectual core of Japan’s migration-driven expansion in Asia, Hawaii an North and South America. Through the lens of Malthusianism, this study demonstrates connections, flows, and interactions between Japanese migration on both sides of the Pacific Ocean and the continuities between Japanese overseas migration before and after the collapse of the empire in 1945.

In this book, I examine Japanese settler colonialism by transcending the space and time of the Japanese empire and bridging the conventionally separated fields of Asian area studies and ethnic studies in North and South America. At a more theoretical level, my research reveals the blurriness of the boundaries between migration and expansion in the modern world. It reconfigures the definition of settler colonialism by analyzing the relationship between life and land and between bio-politics and geo-politics in the logic of modern imperialism.

Selected Publications

“Good Women for Empire: Educating Overseas Female Emigrants in Imperial Japan, 1900-1945,”Journal of Global History, vol. 8, issue. 3 (November 2013), 436-460.

“The Shame of Empire: Japanese Overseas Prostitutes and Prostitution Abolition in Modern Japan, 1880s-1920s,”positions: asia critique,  vol. 24, no. 4 (November 2016), 839-873.

“Colonizing Hokkaido and the Origin of Japanese Trans-Pacific Expansion, 1869-1894,”Japanese Studies, vol. 36, no. 2 (2016), 251-274.

“Japanese American Migration and the Making of Model Women for Japanese Expansion in Brazil and Manchuria, 1871- 1945,” Journal of World History, vol. 28, no. 3&4 (December 2017), 437-467.


Position: Assistant Professor

Field: Migration, Colonialism, Race, Gender, Transnational History
Region: Japan, East Asia, the Pacific

Office: 107B Old Horticulture