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Makoto Takahashi

Makoto Takahashi

ESRC-funded PhD student in Political Geography

Working in the interdisciplinary field of Science, Technology and Society (STS) , Makoto's research addresses questions about expert authority. How is it achieved? On what terms is it challenged? And how can it be defended in public debates?



  • 2015: MPhil in Geographical Research, University of Cambridge
  • 2013: BA in Geography (First class), University of Cambridge


  • 2017: Visiting Research Fellow, Waseda University
  • 2017: Freelance researcher, Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP)
  • 2017: Policy Intern, CSaP
  • 2013: Consultant, Chizu Regeneration Project
  • 2013: Guest lecturer, Chizu Regeneration Project
  • 2011 - 2012: Events Manager (Inaugural), OPEN Ealing
  • 2011: Branding Intern, twenty%extra
  • 2008: Junior Marketing Materials Designer, Capcom

Funding and awards

  • PhD funding: Full PhD Scholarship, ESRC-DTC (2015)
  • MPhil funding: Derek Brewer MPhil Scholarship, Emmanuel College (2013)
  • Travel grants:
    • University Fieldwork Fund, Department of Geography (2017)
    • Peter Lake II Fund, Department of Geography (2017)
    • Discretionary Award, ESRC-DTC (2017)
    • Overseas Fieldwork Fund, ESRC-DTC (2016)
    • Worts, Mosley & Frere Travel Grant, Department of Geography (2012)
    • David Richards Travel Grant, Department of Geography (2012)
  • Awards:
    • M.T. Dodds Award, Emmanuel College (2013)
    • Rowley Mainhood Award, Emmanuel College (2010)
    • David W Smith Memorial Prize, Royal Geographical Society (2009)


Expert advice has a profound impact on our daily lives: influencing everything from how fast we can drive our cars to what chemicals can be used in our toothpaste. To many of us deference to expert advice is intuitive. Yet the rejection of "the experts" in the British EU-membership referendum and the 2016 US Presidential Election makes it clear that the authority of expert advice cannot be taken for granted; inviting us to examine how expert authority is achieved in practice.

Drawing upon the conceptual tools of Science and Technology Studies (STS), I seek to understand how expert authority is claimed and contested in conditions of low public trust.

In theoretical terms, this entails building upon Goffman, Hilgartner and Jeffrey's work on "performance"; analysing expert workshops as if they were a theatrical drama, so as to draw attention to the everyday practices of impression management.

Empirically, my PhD project is rooted in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. Labeled a disaster "made in Japan" by the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, Fukushima exposed a culture of collusive relations between government and industry. This triggered a crisis of public confidence, which continues to complicate any attempt to manage the radiological health risk. Drawing on extended ethnographic fieldwork, my thesis documents how expert institutions have adapted to this new political landscape, as well as the attempts of citizen's groups to offer alternative "counter-expertise".



  • Takahashi, M. (2017) "Politics, populism and radiation risk: learning from Japan's anti-nuclear movement." In: Proceedings of the 3rd NERIS Workshop. Paris: NERIS.

Conference papers and invited presentations

  • Takahashi, M. (2018) "Nuclear sacrifice zones." 2nd Anglo-french seminar on the nuclear sector: the human, social and ethical dimensions. British Embassy, Paris. 15 Octiber 2018
  • Takahashi, M. (2018) "Dreaming of protection." CEPN, Paris. 22 March 2018
  • Takahashi, M. (2017) "The improvised expert." Waseda University, Tokyo. 6 November 2017.
  • Takahashi, M. (2017) "An expert performance: the OECD-NEA workshop on post-accident food safety science." Takagi School, Tokyo. 17 August 2017.
  • Takahashi, M. (2017) "Politics, populism and radiation risk: learning from Japan's anti-nuclear movement." 3rd NERIS Workshop. Instituto Técnico Superior, Lisbon. 19 May 2017.
  • Takahashi, M. (2017) "Framing nuclear power: how the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster became a populist issue." Anglo-french collaboration in the nuclear sector: the human, social and ethical dimensions. Maison francaise d'Oxford, Oxford. 15 May 2017.
  • Takahashi, M. (2017) "Enacting nuclear expertise: a performative analysis of a post-Fukushima workshop." American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting. Hynes Convention Center, Boston. 7 April 2017.
  • Takahashi, M. (2015) "Experts in conflict: negotiating the 'danger zone' after Fukushima." States, Markets and Society (SMS) Research Seminar. Department of Geography, Cambridge. 21 October 2015.
  • Takahashi, M. (2014) "Radiophobia: reconstructing nuclear risk after Fukushima." MPhil Presentations. Department of Geography, Cambridge. 9 May 2014.

Policy reports

  • Takahashi, M. (2017) "Next Generation Internet." Brussels: European Commission, Centre for Science and Policy, Cambridge Computer Lab.

Opinion editorials


  • Lecturer, Part 1B - Dissertation training
  • Supervisor, Part 1A - Human Geography (Geopolitics), Part 1B - Citizenship, Part 2 - Changing cultures of risk
  • Demonstrator, Sutton Trust Summer School
  • Admissions interviewer, Coprus Christi college

External activities

  • 2017: Co-convener and chair, graduate seminar with Distinguished International Visiting Fellow, Professor Didier Fassin
  • 2016: Co-convener and chair, graduate seminar with Distinguished International Visiting Fellow, Professor Tania Li Murray
  • 2015: Co-convener, States, Markets and Society (SMS) research group
  • 2014: Secretary, Cambridge University Mixed Martial Arts (CUMMA)