Ryo Morimoto

Assistant Professor
HMEI Associated Faculty, Program in History of Science Associated Faculty
East Asian Studies Associated Faculty
Email Address: 
Office Location: 
125 Aaron Burr Hall
Office Hours: 
2:00 pm-3:00 pm
2:00 pm-3:00 pm

Also by appointment.

Teaching (Fall 2021)
Catastrophes across Cultures: The Anthropology of Disaster (ANT 219 / ENV 219)


Ph.D. Brandeis University, Anthropology

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

Short Bio
Through his ethnographic research, Morimoto aims to create a space for and language to think about nuclear things and other contaminants as part and parcel of what it means to live in the late industrial and post-fallout era, rather than as alien species that must and should be held at a distance from humans. Morimoto is 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. Morimoto uses 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.

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).


Publications List: 

Selected Publications

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. Forthcoming

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