Emily Sekine

Curriculum vitae (PDF)

Dissertation Abstract
The Japanese archipelago stretches across four major tectonic plates, making it one of the most earthquake-prone areas of the world. But even in a place where tremors are commonplace, the massive 9.0 quake that struck the Tohoku region in March 2011 -- stirring a tsunami and unleashing a nuclear meltdown -- came as a stark reminder of the tremendous capabilities of earthquakes to surprise, to undo previous assumptions, and to destroy and remake worlds. The failure of seismologists to predict this devastating quake has added fuel to long-standing international debates over the possibilities and limits of seismological knowledge. This ethnographic and historical study explores how the uncertainty surrounding earthquakes has made seismology into a field that is remarkably -- if at times begrudgingly -- open to unconventional explanations, methods, and types of evidence. Furthermore, the study considers how people understand earthquakes not only through science, but also through folklore, history, spirituality, public education, popular culture, and observations of strange weather and animal behavior. By asking how earthquake science accommodates everyday knowledge, as well as how non-scientists draw upon various knowledge traditions to make sense of a volatile and inscrutable earth, this research sheds light on how people in Japan actually live with and interpret nature’s uncertainties. Centrally, the project inquires into how the physical instability of the earth might compel and reconfigure practices of observing, sensing, and knowing 'nature' itself.

Honors and Awards

2013: Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
2013: National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
2013: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) Award, in partnership with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
2013: Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace, Middlebury College
2010: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Courses Taught
Spring 2012: Scientific Animals, The New School, Eugene Lang College
Contact Information
The New School for Social Research
6 East 16th Street, 9th floor, Room 926
New York, NY, 10003

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