Researcher biography

Natsuko Akagawa has a PhD and Master of Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies, Master of Business Administration, Graduate Diploma of Education and Diploma of Portuguese Language and Culture and Bachelor of Arts. She has also studied and practiced the Japanese arts of tea ceremony, flower arrangement, traditional martial arts (aikijujutsu) and traditional fabric dying techniques in Japan. She has published widely on heritage, Japan and Southeast Asia.

Natsuko’s research focuses on heritage as it applies to people, nations and global interactions. Her pioneering research establishes a theoretical nexus between the politics of cultural diplomacy, heritage conservation, and national identity and interest, which has now become a focus for scholars in a range of disciplines. Her book, Heritage conservation in Japan’s cultural diplomacy: Heritage, national identity and national interest (Routledge Contemporary Japanese Series 2014) has formed the basis of subsequent research on the connections between broader elements of heritage and cultural diplomacy.

Natsuko is co-editor of Intangible Heritage (Routledge 2008), internationally regarded as one of the first comprehensive texts on this topic. Together with her co-editor, she is preparing a second entirely new edition forthcoming in 2017. In her own research in this area, she has been tracing the development of the concept of intangible heritage and how that has influenced global heritage discourse more generally. In particular, this has explored the influence of Japanese heritage practice in recognising the importance of embodied skill in relation to material or tangible heritage.

She is also Associate Investigator ARC centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. Her particular interest in relation to the history of emotions involves the way emotions mediated the cultural encounter of East and West at both personal and political levels in the early modern period. She is interested in the way such encounters played a role in shaping perceptions and the performance of heritage in both East and West, through engagement with both tangible and intangible elements such as meanings, memories and identity.

Other areas of her current research and publications have involved specific studies on the nature of colonial and post-colonial practice of heritage in several East and Southeast Asian nations, and the political use of heritage in framing contemporary national identities in the region. Following an earlier article related to Japan’s occupation of Indonesia between 1942 and 1945, Natsuko is also working on a co-authored book on the history of Central Sulawesi (Indonesia) that examines Japanese naval administration in East Indonesia, in particular in relation to religious policy. In the longer terms she plans to develop these various studies for a book on Japan’s civil and cultural administration of Indonesia and Southeast Asia.


  • Japanese language and Japanese studies

Research Interests

  • Development of modern heritage policy and practice in Japan
  • Transnational community and heritage: displacement, violence, identity, memory
  • Historic urban landscape: identity, memory and heritage
  • Colonial/Postcolonial heritage: politics and communities
  • Borders and space: memory and heritage
  • Heritage and Emotion
  • Heritage and Religion

Other Activities and Service

  • Associate Investigator for Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions
  • Expert Voting Member of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
  • Vice-President of ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage
  • Research Fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies with Leiden University (Netherlands) (EU funded)
  • Visiting research fellow at the East West Centre and University of Hawaii, Manoa (United States Federal Government funded)
  • Associate Member of the Centre for Urban Research (RMIT University, Melbourne)
  • Reviewer for: International Journal of Heritage Studies; Journal of Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research; Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research; Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management