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Ikuko Asaka

Profile picture for Ikuko Asaka

Contact Information

418 Gregory Hall
Associate Professor

Research Interests

Nineteenth-centuty US; gender, race, and sexuality; US imperialism 

I am a historian of the nineteenth-century United States. My research takes transimperial, interimperial, and international approaches. My first book examines the intersections of settler colonialism and Black removal efforts (e.g. Liberian colonization) and illuminates the centrality of languages of climate, race, and gender to intellectual debates over geographies of Black freedom. 

I am currently working on two projects: one exploring early U.S. imperialism in the Pacific, and the other historicizing representations of Asianness and their relationship to gender binary. 


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



Summer Stipend, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2020  

Franklin Research Grant, American Philosophical Society, 2020

Awards and Honors

Conrad Humanities Scholar, 2021-2026

Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors Award, 2016-18

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

Courses Taught

HIST171 U.S. History to 1877
HIST285 U.S. Gender History to 1877
HIST316 Global Histories of Gender                                                  HIST317 Birth of U.S.Empire                                                              

Additional Campus Affiliations

Gender and Women's Studies

Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies

Women & Gender in Global Perspectives Program


Highlighted Publications

Asaka, I. (2017). Tropical Freedom: Climate, Settler Colonialism, and Black Exclusion in the Age of Emancipation. Duke University Press.

View all publications on Illinois Experts

Recent Publications


Tropical Freedom: Climate, Settler Colonialism, and Black Exclusion in the Age of Emancipation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017


“Guerilla Women and Men in Silk Dresses: Diplomacy and Orientalism during the 1860 Japanese Mission,” Special Issue: Transpacific Connections in the Civil War Era. Journal of the Civil War Era 13, no. 4 (December 2023): 444-468  

“Lucretia Mott and the Underground Railroad: The Transatlantic World of a Radical American Woman.” Journal of the Early Republic Volume 38, no 4 (Winter 2018): 613-642

“Different Tales of John Glasgow: John Brown’s Evolution to Slave Life in Georgia.” Journal of Black Studies 49, no. 3 (April 2018): 212-234

“‘Colored Men of the East’: African Americans and the Instability of Race in US-Japan Relations.” American Quarterly 66, no. 4 (December 2014): 971-997    

“‘Our Brethren in the West Indies’: Self Emancipated People in Canada and the Antebellum Politics of Diaspora and Empire.” Journal of African American History 97, no.3 (Summer 2012): 219-239   


“African-American Migration and the Climatic Language of Anglophone Settler Colonialism.” In Crossing Empires: Taking U.S. History into Transimperial Terrain, edited by Kristin Hoganson and Jay Sexton. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020.  

“Exiles in America: Canadian Anti-Black Racism and the Meaning of Nation in the Age of the 1848 Revolutions.” In Race and Nation in the Age of Emancipations, ed. Whitney Nell Stewart and John Garrison Marks, 53-68. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2018.


H-Diplo Roundtable XXII-8, “A Teaching Roundtable on Teaching Colonialism in History” (October 14, 2020)