Kären Wigen teaches Japanese history and the history of cartography at Stanford. A geographer by training, she earned her doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. Her first book, The Making of a Japanese Periphery, 1750-1920 (1995), mapped the economic transformation of southern Nagano Prefecture during the heyday of the silk industry. Her second book, A Malleable Map: Geographies of Restoration in Central Japan, 1600-1912 (2010), returned to the ground of that study, exploring the roles of cartography, chorography, and regionalism in the making of modern Shinano.

An abiding interest in world history led her to co-author The Myth of Continents (1997) with Martin Lewis, and to co-direct the "Oceans Connect" project at Duke University. She also introduced a forum on oceans in history for the American Historical Review and co-edited Seascapes: Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges (2007) with Jerry Bentley and Renate Bridenthal. Her latest project is another collaboration, Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps, with co-editors Sugimoto Fumiko and Cary Karacas ( University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2016).

Academic Appointments

  • Professor, History

Administrative Appointments

  • Chair, History Department (2011 - 2014)
  • Director, Center for East Asian Studies (2009 - 2011)

Honors & Awards

  • Award for Advanced Research in the Social Sciences on Japan, National Endowment for the Humanities (2006)
  • Faculty Fellowship, Stanford Humanities Center (2006)
  • Research Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies (2006)
  • Bass Fellow (Jack H. Neely Associate Professor), Duke University (1999-2003)
  • Research Fellowship, National Humanities Center (1999)
  • “Oceans Connect,” Duke University (co-PI with Martin Lewis)., Ford Foundation (1997-2002)
  • Research Fellowship, Japan Foundation (1996)
  • Arisawa Award, American Association of University Presses (1995)
  • Fairbank Prize, American Historical Association (1995)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of History, Duke University (1992)
  • Doctoral Fellowship, Social Science Research Council (1988)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Advisory Editor, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History (2015 - Present)
  • Chair, Bentley Prize Committee, American Historical Association (2015 - Present)
  • Nominating Committee, American Historical Association (2015 - Present)
  • Editorial Board member, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (2012 - Present)
  • Editorial Board member, Journal of Historical Geography (2009 - 2012)
  • Board of Trustees, Journal of Japanese Studies (2008 - 2014)
  • Program Committee Co-chair, American Historical Association (2006 - 2007)
  • Advisory Board, Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (2004 - 2007)
  • Editorial Board member, American Historical Review (2001 - 2004)
  • Series Editor for "Asia: Local Studies/Global Themes", University of California Press (1998 - Present)

Program Affiliations

  • Center for East Asian Studies

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Japanese Imperial Maps as Sources for East Asian History: The Past and Future of the Gaihozu CROSS-CURRENTS-EAST ASIAN HISTORY AND CULTURE REVIEW Wigen, K. 2012
  • AHR Forum - Oceans of history - Introduction AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW Wigen, K. 2006; 111 (3): 717-721
  • Discovering the Japanese Alps: Meiji mountaineering and the quest for geographical enlightenment JOURNAL OF JAPANESE STUDIES Wigen, K. 2005; 31 (1): 1-26
  • Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography Lewis, M. W., Wigen, K. University of California Press. 1997