Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Essay // The Texture of Crepe: The Role of Women in the Creation and Consumption of Japanese Crepe-Paper Books (chirimen-bon) (In Preparation)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina. “The Texture of Crepe: The Role of Women in the Creation and Consumption of Japanese Crepe-Paper Books (chirimen-bon).” In preparation for submission.

ABSTRACT

In his book A Shoemaker’s Story, art historian Anthony W. Lee reflects on the importance of investigating local subjects with an eye open to the large—and often global—issues they invoke. He explains that projects such as these are never truly limiting nor local, but instead have the ability to open a meaningful world of inquiry. The Smiling Book, a 24-leaf woodblock printed crepe-paper book (chirimen-bon) released by Japanese publisher Takejiro Hasegawa allows us to apply Lee’s method of working “local” while thinking “global.” Collected by Minnesota artist Evelyn Goodrow Mitsch and housed in St. Catherine University Library’s Special Collections (St. Paul, MN), The Smiling Book might appear both small and unassuming. However, a material history and visual analysis of the work reveals the relationship between the historical use of crepe paper in girls’ culture, the production of densely illustrated crepe paper books for a predominantly Western female audience, and the obscured labor of British, French, and American missionary and military wives who served as writers and translators of these rich image-texts. Histories of Japanese modernization in the Meiji period (1868-1912) often focus on the stories of male dignitaries and officials. The Smiling Book presents us with an alternative, but concurrent, narrative rooted in visual culture. It upsets the image of the male connoisseur of art and culture to highlight the active role of women—both Japanese and foreign—in bridging and introducing Japan to new American (and Midwestern) audiences in the twentieth century.

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Website // Mapping Isabella Bird (Scalar 2)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. Mapping Isabella Bird: Geolocation & Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (1880). http://mapping.cmspiker.com/japan/.

DESCRIPTION

This website is an open-source hub for students, educators, and researchers interested in the history of explorer Isabella Lucy Bird (1831-1904). It uses her example to explore the relationship between maps, explorers, visual culture, and tourism in Japan in the late nineteenth century. I first became interested in Isabella Bird while completing my doctoral dissertation on indigenous Ainu representation and the exploration of Hokkaido, and the digital project began in earnest in 2017.

The website is built using Scalar 2, a free, open source publishing platform developed by the University of Southern California and now a project of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (ANVC) that is designed for long-form, born-digital scholarship online. I wanted to work with Scalar specifically for the ability to assemble a rich media archive and annotate these images in conjunction with my writing. I also enjoy the ability to link media to writing to tags in a way that doesn’t privilege any one form of content over another. These connections can then be visualized in several ways as the project grows.

Many of the interactive maps found on this site are powered by tabular data (spreadsheets) culled from historical texts freely available on Archive.org and HathiTrust Digital Library. These sources are in the public domain. This information is visualized through various geospatial mapping applications, such as CARTO, ArcGIS, and Google Maps. These maps are then placed into context alongside examples of relevant visual culture. Some of the maps integrated were initially created for other projects, such as Traveling Hokkaido.

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Book Chapter // “Civilized” Men and “Superstitious” Women: Visualizing the Hokkaido Ainu in Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks, 1880

CITATION

Spiker, Christina. “‘Civilized’ Men and ‘Superstitious’ Women: Visualizing the Hokkaido Ainu in Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks, 1880.” In Gender, Continuity, and the Shaping of Modernity in the Arts of East Asia, 16th–20th Centuries, edited by Lara Blanchard and Kristen Chiem, 287-315. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

ABSTRACT

Open any modern travel guide on Japan and you will likely find mention of Victorian explorer, writer, and naturalist Isabella Lucy Bird (1851–1904). Known for her travels throughout the United States, Australia, and Asia, Bird’s publications and vibrant lecture circuit made her a household name in nineteenth-century Great Britain. Her two-volume work Unbeaten Tracks in Japan is unique in its detailed, subjective account of the customs and manners of the Ainu—the indigenous minority dwelling in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of the Japanese archipelago. This essay treats Bird’s travelogue as a visual object to analyze the role of photography and illustration in relation to the text. I argue that by adopting an art historical framework, we gain a unique perspective on Bird’s significant role in constructing the ubiquitous Ainu stereotype by reinforcing prescribed gender roles for Ainu men and women. This chapter examines how photography taken by male photographers living in Japan such as Baron Raimund von Stillfried (1839–1911) were translated into woodcut engravings and then printed in a travelogue written by a woman. This process raises questions regarding gender, medium, and the role of realism in a new transnational economy of Ainu images consumed by Victorian audiences.

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Dissertation // Ainu Fever: Indigenous Representation in a Transnational Visual Economy, 1868–1933

CITATION

Spiker, Christina. Ainu Fever: Indigenous Representation in a Transnational Visual Economy, 1868–1933. Dissertation. University of California, Irvine, 2015.

ABSTRACT

Romanticized as a lone Caucasoid race surrounded by Mongoloids, the Ainu―an indigenous people from the Hokkaido region of northern Japan―fascinated turn-of-the-century tourists, anthropologists and intellectuals. Suffering from the insatiable Wanderlust produced by rapid modernization, explorers traveled to Hokkaido in search of an “authentic” native experience outside of the Westernized Japanese treaty ports. British, American, and even Japanese travelers likened the unruly geography of the northern frontier to the Ainu body and personality. For some, these “hairy” indigenous people epitomized the exotic; for others, the ethnic ambiguity of the Ainu embodied a fantasy of aboriginal whiteness. Surveying the images represented in explorers’ reports, travel memoires, world’s fair press releases, and indigenous publications, this dissertation examines networks of visual imagery that formed a consistent stereotype of Ainu culture from the height of Euro-American and Japanese “Ainu fever” in the late nineteenth century to the indigenous collectivization of the Ainu circa 1930. This dissertation is organized around transnational personalities such as traveler Isabella Bird, novelist Edward Greey, artist Arnold Henry Savage Landor, anthropologist Frederick Starr, photographer Arnold Genthe, artist Kondō Kōichiro, illustrator Katahira Tomijirō, and writer Takekuma Tokusaburō. While explorers and tourists traveled to Hokkaido to find themselves in the north, the Ainu had to contend with becoming an absent center in their own visual discourse. In addition to addressing images produced by British, American, and Japanese travelers, this research also investigates indigenous voices, such as Katahira and Takekuma, in order to restore attention to the self-fashioning of the Ainu image in print culture. These case studies span diverse visual media and synthesize text and image to investigate the role of circulation in producing knowledge about the Ainu. This project argues that while the origin of Ainu stereotypes can be found in Japanese Ainu-e paintings or early Euro-American travelogues of Hokkaido, they became a mainstay of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century visual culture through the incessant reproduction of a small body of images across space and time.

Top photograh taken by the author at Lake Poroto in Shiraoi, bottom photograph taken by the author at the Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum.

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Presentation // Constructing the Indigenous: Nineteenth-Century Circulation and Transformation of the Ainu

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Constructing the Indigenous: Nineteenth-Century Circulation and Transformation of the Ainu Image in British and American Print Culture,” paper delivered at the Nineteenth Century Workshop (Theme: Circulation), Rutgers University. (October 2, 2014).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated Anglophone explorers and travelers, as they searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier. Idealized as a non-Asian race stranded in the North Pacific, writers like Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), Isabella Lucy Bird (1831-1904), and Edward Greey (1835-1888) not only described Ainu manners and customs, but reproduced countless illustrations which would come to define the native people in the Euro-American imaginary. Augmenting previous textual analyses of early engagement with the Ainu, this essay is an attempt at a visual history of the Ainu as defined by the transformation, reproduction, and circulation of illustrations in travelogues and descriptions of the world.

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Presentation // Exploring the Real Hokkaido: A.H. Savage Landor’s Travel Illustrations, 1893

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Exploring the Real Hokkaido: A.H. Savage Landor’s Travel Illustrations, 1893,” paper delivered at Rethinking the Space and Place of Japan: Japanese Art and GlobalizationsConference, UCLA (April 7, 2012).

ABSTRACT

Romanticized as a lone “Caucasoid” race surrounded by “Mongoloids,” the Ainu—an indigenous people from the Hokkaido, Kurile, and Sakhalin regions of northern Japan—fascinated turn-of-the-century tourists, anthropologists and intellectuals. Suffering from insatiable Wanderlust produced by the tempo of rapid modernization, people traveled to Hokkaido in search of an authentic Ainu experience outside of the Japanese treaty port. The unruly geography of Hokkaido was likened to Ainu physiognomy, and these “hairy” people seemed to epitomize a preindustrial, premodern past.

This paper examines the representation of the Ainu and Hokkaido in 19th and early 20th century travel illustration such as that by English explorer, painter, and budding ethnographer Arnold Henry Savage Landor (1865-1924) in his travel memoir Alone with the Hairy Ainu (1893). In search of the picturesque, Landor sketched his way through Hokkaido, recording the locales, people, and objects that he encountered along the way. What did Hokkaido represent for the Euro-American explorer? In addressing the theme “Authenticity is elsewhere,” I question what Landor was hoping to gain once he found the “authentic” Ainu village.

The Ainu and their popular representation as the “primitive picturesque” made them an apt subject for Landor’s illustrations, demonstrating a yearning desire to return to a simpler lifestyle. However, this desire is also enacted through simpler modes of picture making that the author was in fear of losing in the face of technological innovation. Instead of interpreting Landor’s travel illustration as a bi-product of his textual narrative, this project seeks to analyze the importance of illustration in contrast to other visual media like photography. I explore how the process of illustration functions as a medium that evokes a different kind of authorial authenticity through the artist’s pen and paintbrush.

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Pechakucha // “When My Clothes Came to an End I Did Without Them”: Going Native in Hokkaido, Japan

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “’When My Clothes Came to an End I Did Without Them”: Going Native in Hokkaido, Japan,” Pechakucha paper delivered at the Constructing Worlds: Making and Breaking Order, Visual Studies Graduate Student Conference, UC Irvine (April 5, 2012).

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Presentation // The Ainu Moses: Arnold Genthe’s 1908 Ainu Photography

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The Ainu Moses: Arnold Genthe’s 1908 Ainu Photography,” paper delivered at the Japan Art History Forum graduate panel, College Arts Association, Los Angeles (February 24, 2012).

ABSTRACT

This paper examines the role of the Ainu in the Euro-American imagination through the study of Arnold Genthe’s photographs from his trip to Japan in 1908. Although representations of the Ainu are often discussed in the context of Japanese debates over race and ethnicity, it is my contention that the Ainu played a larger role than currently attributed in the construction of Euro-American identity prior to 1920. Representations of the Ainu are enmeshed in the discourse of the “vanishing race,” and provide an interesting example of what was thought to be a “proto-white” people by European and American anthropologists. Using Genthe’s photographs as an entryway into these debates of the early 20th century, I see his work as intersecting Meiji photographic practices, European interest in the Ainu as a form of self-assessment, and the budding field of American ethnography. Bridging terrain between Japanese and American visual culture, this paper examines the way in which Genthe’s photographs contribute to a transnational economy of images constructing notions of American and Japanese identity.

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