Ryo Morimoto

Assistant Professor
HMEI Associated Faculty, Program in History of Science Associated Faculty
East Asian Studies Associated Faculty
Office Phone
125 Aaron Burr Hall

Ph.D. Brandeis University, Anthropology


Program in History of Science
Program on Science and Global Security
Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Princeton
Program in Asian American Studies
Faculty Fellow, Center for Digital Humanities
Faculty-in-Residence, Forbes College

Semiotics, Nuclear Things, Toxicity, Waste, Disaster Studies, Environment, Energy, Robotics, Wildlife, Anthropology of Science and Technology, Applied Anthropology, East Asia (Japan), Indigenous Studies

Short Bio

I am a first-generation scholar from Japan. My scholarly work addresses the planetary impacts of our past and present engagements with nuclear things. Regionally centered on Japan, my research creates spaces, languages, and archives through which to think about nuclear things, along with other not immediately sensible contaminants, as part of what it means to live in the late industrial and postfallout era. I ground my work in a range of theoretical frameworks—including semiotic anthropology, anthropology of disaster, environmental anthropology, anthropology and the recent history of Japan, anthropology of science and technology, and digital humanities. I mobilize them to explore the uses and applications of technologies in social processes whereby certain sensory-cognitive experiences are (im)materialized and to grapple with the techno-sensory politics that emerge in discourses concerning invisible things. My scholarship addresses the experiences of lay public to read situated perspectives against the archive of what has been rendered perceptible.

I am currently working on a book project, tentatively titled The Nuclear Ghost: Atomic Livelihood in Fukushima’s Gray Zone. This book integrates environmental anthropology, recent Japanese history, and science and technology studies to understand the uses and applications of technologies in social processes whereby certain sensory-cognitive experiences are (im)materialized. I use the term “nuclear ghost” to analyze the struggles of representing and experiencing low-dose radiation exposure in coastal Fukushima, where individual, social, political and scientific determinations of the threshold of exposure are often inconsistent. Against the government’s reliance on technoscientific measurements to regiment what it means to be exposed, his ethnography explores local experiences of radiation exposure, as well as situated ways of knowing and living with nuclear things in people’s shifting relationships with contaminated others such as wildlife, plants, and foodstuffs.

Since 2020, Morimoto facilitates an undergraduate-led project, Nuclear Princeton, which highlights the underacknowledged impacts of Princeton’s nuclear science and engineering on Native lands, communities, and beyond.

Before joining Anthropology, Ryo was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japan Studies at Harvard University, where he also served as the project manager of the Japan Disaster Digital Archive (jdarchive.org).


Selected Publications

Selected Publications

A Wild Boar Chase: Ecology of Harm and Half-life Politics of Nuclear Things in Coastal Fukushima.” Cultural Anthropology, Vol 37, no 1: 69-98. 2022  


Home Otherwise: Living Archives and Half-Life Politics in Coastal Fukushima." Colloquy: Cultural Anthropology, Vol 36, no. 4: 573-579. 2021


Commentary: Ethnographic Lettering: “Pursed Lips: A Call to Suspend Damage in the Age of Decommissioning." Critical Asian Studies, March 22, 2021.


From Nuclear Things to Things Nuclear: Minding the Gap at the Knowledge-Policy-Practice Nexus in Post-Fallout Fukushima. In “Exploring the Gap between Disaster Knowledge, Policy and Practice,” Susanne Hoffman and Roberto Barrios Eds. Berghahn Books, pp. 218-240. 2020


Interpretative Frameworks of Disaster in Society Close Up. In “Natural Hazards, Risks, and Disasters in Society: A Cross-Disciplinary Overview,” Andrew E. Collins, Samantha Jones, Bernard S. Manyena, and Janaka Jayawickrama Eds. Elsevier’s Hazards and Disasters Series, pp. 323-351. 2015


Waves of Semiosis. Is It about Time? On the Semiotic Anthropology of Change. In Peter Trifonas Ed. “International Handbook of Semiotics.” Medford: Springer, pp. 547-564. 2015


“Message without a Coda: On Rhetoric of the Photographic Records.” Signs and Society, 2(2): 284-313. 2014


“The Cult(ure) of the Second Sun: Remembering, Repeating, and Performing the Past Imperfect.” Semiotic Inquiry, Special Issue: Semiotics in Anthropology Today, 32(1-2-3): 161-186. 2012


“Shaking Grounds, Unearthing Palimpsests: Semiotic Anthropology of Disaster.” Semiotica, 192: 263-274. 2012