Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Website URL
U.S. Empire, climate and race, gender binary and race, early US-Japan relations, militarization, Pacific
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Ikuko Asaka is Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois. She is a historian of U.S. imperialism, specializing in the United States’ overseas expansion from the nation’s beginning through the Philippine-American War. Her first book, Tropical Freedom: Climate, Settler Colonialism, and Black Exclusion in the Age of Emancipation, illuminates the mutual constitution of settler colonialism in North America and efforts to remove emancipated Black people to the Caribbean, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, a co-constitution inflected by languages of climate, race, and gender.

She has also published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on a variety of topics: women’s rights advocates in transatlantic abolitionist activism; transimperial employment of climatic language in Liberia and Sierra Leone; self-emancipated people in Canada and their diasporic and intercolonial connections to freed people in the British Caribbean; the complexities of Afro-Asia relations; and decentering binary gender and sexuality in US-Japan diplomatic history.

Her current book project explores early U.S. imperialism in the Pacific with an emphasis on gender and militarization in Japan and Hawai’i.

Early U.S. gender history and U.S. imperial history courses are her main teaching interests. Her general education gender history course incorporates non-normative gender and sexual experiences.

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.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
Asia, Japan, North America, Pacific, United States
Expertise by Chronology
19th century
Expertise by Topic
Colonialism, Diplomacy, Gender, Military, Race, Sexuality, Women