Dr. Lane Earns, Professor Emeritus

"Japan's Engagement with the Outside World, 1853-1912"

Wednesday, October 10th, 12:30pm - 1:45pm; 110 French Hall

Lane Earns was born and raised in Flint, Michigan and received his B.A. from Michigan State University in International Relations and Education in 1973. That summer, he participated in a two-month study abroad program to Japan, and, the following year, he received a year-long Fulbright Fellowship to Nagasaki. Upon completing the fellowship, Earns went to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he earned an M.A. in Asian Studies in 1977. He then returned to Nagasaki and taught English for two years at a women’s junior college there.

In 1979, Earns returned to Hawaii to enter the Ph.D. program in history. In 1983, he received a Japanese Foundation Grant to conduct his dissertation research at the Historiographical Institute at the University of Tokyo. He then taught two more years in Nagasaki before returning to Hawaii to complete his dissertation in 1987.

Earns began his academic career at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh that same year as an Assistant Professor of History and was promoted to Professor in 1997. From 2004 to 2017, Earns served as Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UW Oshkosh. He retired in August 2017 and now lives with his wife in Belmont, Massachusetts, which is located just outside of Boston.

Earns, whose research focuses on Nagasaki, is currently working on his third book on the Japanese city. The working title is “Yankees in the ‘Naples of the Orient’: A Century of Culture, Commerce and Catastrophe.”


Dr. David Tobaru Obermiller, Associate Professor of History

The Okinawa That Can Say No: The Role of Okinawan Identity in Contesting Japanese Rule

Thursday, November 8, 2:30pm - 3:34pm; 317 MSB

David is currently serving as Chair of History, and is also affiliated with the Japanese Studies Program and the Environmental Studies Program.

David has been at Gustavus since 2008, previously he taught at University of Wisconsin-Superior for seven years. He received his Ph.D. from University of Iowa in modern Japanese history with an emphasis on Okinawa’s postwar history. His research examines the twenty-seven year US military occupation of Okinawa and in particular how Okinawans resisted the occupation and how this experience led to questions about their identity as Japanese. Drawing upon on his archival work and oral history project in Okinawa, he weaves this top-down history with that of his Okinawan family experience and other ordinary Okinawans who experienced life under military occupation. In 2013, his essay, “Dreaming Ryukyu: Shifting and Contesting Identities in Okinawa,” was published in an edited book, Japan Since 1945: From Postwar to Post-bubble (Bloomsbury Press), and it highlighted how identities are malleable and shaped by historical contingencies. His current research on Okinawa examines how the protracted US military presence has caused ecological havoc ranging from soil and water contamination due to Agent Orange, exhaust fumes and noise pollution from military aircraft and vehicles, the poisoning of soil and water from the use of “depleted uranium” munitions, and the traffic congestion caused by the military bases.

Since coming to Gustavus, he has gone beyond his Asian specialty to teach environmental history, drawing upon his years as an environmental activist. In the summer of 2014, his Asian and environmental interests intersected when he had an opportunity to study China’s environmental sustainability projects and the level of environmental degradation. His current interdisciplinary research project, “Why East Asia Matters: Economic Power, Environmental Degradation, and the Global Order,” critiques the economic measure of GDP, and how such a myopic perspective has created an environmental disaster with consequences for both China and the world.


Dr. Elizabeth D. Lublin, Associate Professor of History, Wayne State University

Exploring Nationalism in Meiji Japan Through the Lens of the Tobacco Industry

Thursday, December 6, 12:30pm - 1:45pm; 130 FH

Elizabeth D. Lublin holds a BA in history and East Asian Studies from Yale University, an MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan, and a PhD in modern Japanese history from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

She joined the faculty at Wayne State University in 2001 and teaches survey courses on modern East Asia along with upper-level classes on premodern and modern Japan, the history of Japanese pop culture, gender in modern East Asia, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki in history and memory.

Her first book explored the activism of the Japan Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and she is currently working on a second manuscript on the tobacco industry during the same period.