I am currently conducting research on transnational networks of pearl-shell divers who, shortly after the opening of Japan in the nineteenth century, started seeking shellfish along the coasts of the Australian continent, the Dutch East Indies, and German (and later, British) New Guinea. My undergraduate work, which was awarded the Ivan Morris Memorial Prize from the British Association for Japanese Studies, brought to light new materials on an influential but neglected Buddhist intellectual from the depths of the colonial archives of the Dutch East Indies. Altogether, my studies straddle across a vast geographical area including Japan and the Indo-Pacific, as well as various categories of history writing. Among them I include the cultural, environmental, intellectual, diasporic, and, perhaps most notably, transnational history of modern Japan.
My intellectual interests are guided by the rather haphazard process of identity formation and language acquisition that I went through as a child. I grew up in Australia and the Netherlands, as part of different diasporic communities of Minahasa and Chinese Indonesians, and regularly frequented Jakarta and North Sulawesi. I had to forget the first language I started learning, Indonesian, and successively took up English, and then Dutch, even before starting primary school. Never really having acquired a lasting sense of belonging to a place or culture, I have come to view the margins as a useful starting point to think about the world.