Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Article // The Indigenous Shôjo: Transmedia Representations of Ainu Femininity in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993–2019 (Forthcoming)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The Indigenous Shôjo: Transmedia Representations of Ainu Femininity in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993–2019.” Journal of Anime and Manga Studies 1. Forthcoming 2020.

ABSTRACT

TBD

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Webinar // Irankarapte: An Introduction to Ainu Culture in Japan

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Irankarapte: An Introduction to Ainu Culture in Japan,” webinar delivered at the Japan America Society of Minnesota (September 3, 2020).

ABSTRACT

“Irankarapte” is an Ainu greeting. While often translated as “hello,” it means “allow me to touch your heart.” The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan with their own language, religion, and cultural identity. Together with Dr. Christina Spiker, explore the development of Ainu culture and history through art, language, and material artifacts. This webinar will examine both historical and contemporary aspects of Ainu culture, including the surprising ways that Ainu and American history intersect in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will also explore the recent 2020 opening of the new national museum dedicated to the Ainu in Shiraoi, Hokkaido, and Ainu representation in popular media.

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Website // Minority Visual Representation in Asia: St. Olaf College Independent Research 2020 (WordPress)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina, Adele Gordon, and Julianne Stewart. Minority Visual Representation in Asia: St. Olaf College Independent Research 2020. WordPress. 2020.

DESCRIPTION

Our interdisciplinary collaboration with one another in Spring 2020 was born out of a shared interest in learning about how minority groups within Asia were represented in visual culture. Prof. Spiker had research experience in dealing with representations of Ainu visual culture in the 19th and 20th centuries in Japan, while Julianne Stewart ’20 and Adele S. Gordon ’20 had an interest in learning about Taiwan and China.

One recurring question for us was this: “what is the difference between representations of a group by the dominant culture and being represented by one’s own community.” This vacillation between representations “of” and “by” became a touchstone for us as we navigated the complex visual economy of minority visual representation in Asia.

Our collaboration included (1) developing a shared reading list on this subject, (2) meeting weekly to discuss said readings, and (3) each collaborator developing an independent digital humanities project using StoryMapJS by the knight lab at Northwestern University. This was the students first experience using this particular program.

Digital // Analyzing Textiles with an Ainu Attush Robe (StoryMapJS)

DESCRIPTION

An analysis of a 19th-century Ainu robe from the Cooper Hewitt Collection at the Smithsonian Design Museum. This was produced as part of independent research conducted with students Adele S. Gordon ’20 and Julianne Stewart ’20 at St. Olaf College. Each collaborator created their own “story map” using StoryMapJS and used it to explore minority visual representation within Asia. The StoryMapJS was accompanied by a website.

Presentation // Golden Kamuy and the Discourse of Ethnic Harmony: Defining a Multi-Ethnic Japan in Anime and Manga

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Golden Kamuy and the Discourse of Ethnic Harmony: Defining a Multi-Ethnic Japan in Anime and Manga,” paper planned to be delivered at the 50th Annual Popular Culture Association Conference, Philadelphia (April 15-18, 2020). [CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19]

ABSTRACT

The question of Japan’s status as a multi-ethnic nation has been intensively debated by scholars such as Tessa Morris-Suzuki since the 1990s. The development of a new national museum in Hokkaido dedicated to the indigenous Ainu minority called The Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony (民族共生象徴空間, or Upopoy in the Ainu language) has renewed many of these debates on the eve of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. While many scholars, such as Morris-Suzuki, have discussed the concerns with this new contemporary site and the line between celebration and exploitation of indigenous culture, these perspectives have not adequately addressed the role of popular visual culture in spreading an ideology of ethnic harmony in relation to Japan’s indigenous minorities. My paper addresses this issue in a case study of the popular visual cultural representation of the Ainu in the historical manga and anime Golden Kamuy (manga 2014-; anime 2018-) by Noda Satoru. I argue that the way that this show introduces Ainu culture to a non-Ainu majority is in line with many of the issues we see playing out in the political sphere regarding the tension between Ainu recognition by the Japanese government and the government’s unwillingness to take responsibility for past colonial aggressions. In conclusion, by examining Golden Kamuy we can begin to acknowledge the role of visual culture in informing a widespread understanding of indigeneity as we approach the Tokyo Olympics and the torch relay race that will go through this new ethnic museum and park in Hokkaido, Japan.

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Presentation // The “Nakoruru Problem”: The Malleable Ainu Image in Samurai Shodown, 1993-2019 (Mechademia)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The ‘Nakoruru Problem’: The Malleable Ainu Image in Samurai Shodown, 1993-2019,” paper delivered on the “Queered Through the Foreign, Fictional, and Fetishized Body” panel at the Mechademia Conference for Asian Popular Culture, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (September 27-29, 2019)

ABSTRACT

Very little scholarly attention has been given to the visual representations of Native peoples in popular culture, even though media circulation has a role in forging most stereotypes of indigeneity. This void of scholarship is exacerbated in Japan, where the indigenous Ainu were only recognized as an indigenous group in 2008 and legally recognized in 2019. Even before their recent acknowledgment by the Japanese government, images of the Ainu steadily trickled into Japanese popular culture. Before the recent success of manga/anime Golden Kamuy (2014–present), two female heroines from the arcade fighting game Samurai Shodown—Nakoruru and her sister Rimururu—formed a dominant expression of Ainu identity in visual culture beginning in the mid-1990s. This paper examines their complex representation from three distinct angles: (1) the “official” image of these sisters as found in the game franchise, (2) the fetishized image of the women as coopted in fan-produced dōjinshi comics, which plays upon indigenous stereotypes of closeness to nature to further zoophilic rape fantasies, and (3) the adoption of the Ainu women as a local mascot to support Japanese environmental policies related to deforestation and clean water. In exploring the flexibility of the Ainu image as embodied in these two characters, this paper examines the ambivalence of desire and derision that exists between fan and official cultural productions, and the Ainu community response to what Ainu researcher Chupuchitsekor calls the “Nakoruru Problem” (Nakoruru mondai).

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Presentation // Comparative Itineraries: A Digital Humanities Approach to Understanding Authenticity in the Exploration of Hokkaido

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Comparative Itineraries: A Digital Humanities Approach to Understanding Authenticity in the Exploration of Hokkaido,” paper delivered at the Travel is Life, Travel is Home: Representing Travel and Landscape in Japan Conference, Iowa State University (April 4-6, 2019)

ABSTRACT

If you could ask any late nineteenth-century Euro-American explorer about their travels in Hokkaido, Japan, they would all tell you variations of the same story. After a voyage by a steamship, the traveler arrives in the port of Yokohama and confronts a Japan that is both foreign and familiar. After a few days exploration and orientation, they arrange passage to Hakodate by ship with the hope of traveling into Hokkaido’s frontier to meet the indigenous Ainu. Sometimes, these explorers frame the Ainu as savages beyond redemption; at other times, they describe them as naive indigenes in need of religion and civilization. But regardless of how they visually or verbally illustrate the Ainu throughout the text, you would undoubtedly hear tales about how it was this traveler who ventured farther and deeper into Japan’s interior than anyone who came before. As I read these various travel accounts of travel to Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido in the form of explorer’s reports, memoirs, and travelogues, I started to question the exceptional nature of their claims. Did they travel as far as their hyperbole indicated? And when they finally met the indigenous inhabitants of this island, the Ainu, did they really have to navigate “impenetrable jungles,” as one traveler would have it, to locate the ideal “savage” specimen? My paper investigates the role of Hokkaido in three travel narratives written by authors Isabella Bird, Arnold Henry Savage Landor, and Frederick Starr in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I describe the various approaches that these travelers take to exploring the island and employ a digital humanities method to physically plot out the geographies of their route in CARTO DB and ArcGIS. In addition to making a case for the scholarly utility of this method, I use the example of my SCALAR website Mapping Isabella Bird talk about how such digital projects can serve a pedagogical function in posing questions about travel narratives and claims of authorial authenticity.

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Presentation // The White Native Body in Asia: Woodcut Engraving and the Creation of Ainu Stereotypes

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The White Native Body in Asia: Woodcut Engraving and the Creation of Ainu Stereotypes,” paper delivered on the Coloring Print: Reproducing Race Through Material, Process, and Language panel at the annual College Art Association (CAA) Conference (February 13-16, 2019).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated travelers as they searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier. Idealized as a singular white race stranded in the North Pacific, writers, artists, and anthropologists not only textually described Ainu manners and customs but also reproduced countless photographs and illustrations, which would come to visually define Ainu culture in the Euro-American imaginary. Since works depicting the Ainu tended to be overly reliant on readily available woodcut engravings based on photographs from the tourist trade, a small body of images came to stand in for the whole of Ainu experience and culture in the eyes of late nineteenth and early twentieth century European and American readers. Eventually, even Ainu producers of image and text would have no choice but to engage with these dominant representations.This paper examines the role of popular printmaking of the Ainu as a complex, multi-media endeavor. I investigate links between original albumen prints, such as those by Baron Raimund von Stillfried (1839 – 1911), their reproduction, and their eventual translation into the medium of woodcut engraving or illustration. Understanding the gradual development of optical consistency from photographs to the printed illustrations based on them can better illuminate the calcification of Ainu stereotypes at home and abroad and the flourishing debate over Ainu whiteness in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

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Presentation // The Shôjo and the Indigenous Body: Representations of Ainu Woman in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993-2008

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The Shôjo and the Indigenous Body: Representations of Ainu Woman in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993-2008,” paper delivered on the “The Shôjo Body as Indigenous, Ubiquitous, Balletic and Beautiful” panel at the 67th Annual Midwest Conference for Asian Affairs (MCAA), Metropolitan State University (October 19-20, 2018).

ABSTRACT

With the 2014 release of Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa), a puzzle-platformer developed by Upper One Games in conjunction with the Alaskan Cook Inlet Tribal Council, academics and gamers alike have begun to examine the potential for video games to explore native culture as a form of both entertainment and interactive storytelling. In Japan, where its indigenous Ainu minority was recognized as recently as 2008, the relationship between the Japanese and Ainu population remains strained. This paper investigates the role of representation in creating an accessible version of indigenous culture repackaged for the Japanese mainstream. Focusing on Ainu sisters Nakoruru and Rimururu who are featured prominently in the fighting game Samurai Spirits (1993–2008), this paper examines battling indigenous shōjo heroines as virtual ambassadors of culture. While these two characters are marked as Ainu through their clothing and relationship with nature, their indigenous identity is often secondary to their portrayal the shōjo, or “young girl” archetype. In conversation with the work of Sharalyn Orbaugh, this paper questions how the archetype of the “busty battlin’ babe” translates when dealing with the bodies of Ainu women. I argue that Ainu-ness is represented as a form of narrative excess that the character can don as a costume and remove just as easily. By analyzing Nakoruru and Rimururu’s official representation in the franchise, in addition to fan interpretations as presented in self-published comics (dōjinshi) and the erasure of their Ainu backstory upon import to the United States, this paper negotiates various representations of indigenous Otherness against the backdrop of Japanese racism and indigenous activism in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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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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Presentation // Reproducing Alterity: Photography, Illustration, and the Maintenance of Ainu Stereotypes in Meiji and Taisho Japan (AHA)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Reproducing Alterity: Photography, Illustration, and the Maintenance of Ainu Stereotypes in Meiji and Taisho Japan,” paper delivered on the “Optics: Race, Religion, and Technology in East Asian Visual Culture, 1868-1949” panel at the American Historical Association (AHA) Conference, Washington D.C. (January 4-7, 2018)

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated travelers as they searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier. Idealized as a singular non-Asian race stranded in the North Pacific, writers, artists, and anthropologists not only textually described Ainu manners and customs but also reproduced countless photographs and illustrations, which would come to visually define Ainu culture in the Euro-American imaginary. Since works depicting the Ainu tended to be overly reliant on readily available photographs from the tourist trade, a small body of images came to stand in for the whole of Ainu experience and culture in the eyes of late nineteenth and early twentieth century European and American readers. Eventually, even Ainu producers of image and text would have no choice but to engage with these dominant representations.

This paper views the photography of the Ainu as a complex, multi-media endeavor. I adopt a broad definition of photography in an effort to investigate links between original albumen prints, their reproduction, and their eventual translation into the medium of woodcut engraving or illustration. This paper examines some key examples of Ainu photography by popular studios, such as that of Austrian photographer Baron Raimund von Stillfried (1839-1911), and explores engravings based on these original photographic works. In addition to popular producers, this paper will also consider the crucial role that Meiji-era photographs played for Ainu illustrator Katahira Tomijiro (1900-1959), who used them as reference images for his painted works. Ultimately, I argue that the importance of indigenous photography goes far beyond the provenance of the printed image. Understanding the gradual development of optical consistency from photographs to the illustrations based on them can better illuminate the calcification of Ainu stereotypes at home and abroad, as well as expand our understanding of photography as a visual medium.

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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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Presentation // Mapping the Northern Frontier: Geo-Spatial Visualization and the Exploration of Indigenous Culture in Japan

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Mapping the Northern Frontier: Geo-Spatial Visualization and the Exploration of Indigenous Culture in Japan,” lightning paper delivered at the Global Digital Humanities Symposium, Michigan State University (March 16-17, 2017)

ABSTRACT

Coming Soon

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Presentation // Fighting Stereotypes: Reimagining Gender and Race in Street Fighter II (1991) and Samurai Shodown (1993)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Fighting Stereotypes: Reimagining Gender and Race in Street Fighter II (1991) and Samurai Shodown (1993),” paper delivered at the SGMS/Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Culture, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (September 23-25, 2016).

ABSTRACT

Street Fighter. Mortal Kombat. Tekken. Dead or Alive. These game titles conjure iconic images of international fighting tourneys where characters test their strength in hand- to-hand combat; an alternate world history where button combinations and joystick movements solve global crises between heroes and villains. This paper examines two 1990s examples of the fighting game genre–Street Fighter II and Samurai Shodown–in an exploration of the multiple ways that the visual storytelling of fighting games challenges, complicates and constructs a parallel understanding of domestic and international relations. In my unique focus on popular female characters such as Street Fighter‘s Chun-Li, an expert martial artist and Chinese Interpol officer, and Samurai Shodown’s Nakoruru, an indigenous Ainu priestess of Nature from the Japanese island of Hokkaido, I demonstrate how these games reimagine issues of ethnic diversity, gender equality, and Cold War politics in 1990s visual culture against the background of Japanese racism and indigenous activism.

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Presentation // Recasting the Indigenous: Virtual Ainu Ambassadors in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993-2008

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Recasting the Indigenous: Virtual Ainu Ambassadors in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993–2008,” paper delivered at the Console-ing Passions: International Conference on Television, Video, New Media, and Feminism, University of Notre Dame (June 16-18, 2016).

ABSTRACT

With the 2014 release of Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa), a puzzle-platformer developed by Upper One Games in conjunction with the Alaskan Cook Inlet Tribal Council, academics and gamers alike examined the potential for video games to explore native culture as both entertainment and interactive storytelling. In Japan, where its indigeous Ainu minority was recognized as recently as 2008, the relationship between the Japanese and Ainu population remains strained. This paper investigates the role of gaming in creating an accessible version of indigenous culture repacked for the Japanese mainstream. Focusing on Ainu sisters Nakoruru and Rimururu, featured prominently in the fighting game Samurai Spirits (1993–2008), this paper examines these battling shōjo heroines as virtual ambassadors of culture. While these two characters are marked as Ainu through their clothing and relationship with nature, their indigenous identity often comes second to their portrayal the shōjo, or “young girl” archetype; what Sharalyn Orbaugh has called the role of “busty battlin’ babe.” Ainu-ness is thus represented as a form of narrative excess that the character can don as a costume and remove just as easily. By analyzing Nakoruru and Rimururu’s official representation in the francise in addition to fan interpretations as presented in self-published comics (dōjinshi), and the erasure of their Ainu backstory upon import to the United States, this paper negotiates various representations of indigenous Otherness against the backdrop of Japanese racism and indigenous activism in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Presentation // Touring the Indigenous Village: Kondō Kōichiro’s Ainu Illustrations, 1917

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Touring the Indigenous Village: Kondō Kōichiro’s Ainu Illustrations, 1917,” paper delivered at the first annual Art Historians of the Twin Cities Symposium, St. Catherine University (April 2, 2016).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated late nineteenth-century anthropologists, intellectuals, and explorers in the United States, Great Britain, and Japan. Motivated by a burning Wanderlust, these figures searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier of Hokkaido. Japanese and Euro-American explorers alike often compared the unruly geography of Hokkaido to the “hairy” Ainu body, conflating natives with the natural landscape. While photographs and illustrations of the Ainu are common enough in the discourse of Japanese anthropology, this paper examines a series of Ainu drawings created by an unlikely figure: modern ink painter and newspaper caricaturist, Kondō Kōichiro (1884–1962).

Trained in oil painting (yōga), and well versed in Japanese monochromatic ink painting (suibokuga), Kondō would seek employment as an illustrator for the Yomiuri Newspaper in 1915. Two years later, he joined a cadre of Japanese travelers intent on visiting the farthest reaches of Japan’s empire not as an anthropological mission, but as a form of leisure and entertainment. The newspaper published Kondō’s comedic, visual exploits in a morning-edition column that exposed new and unsuspecting audiences to his art and travels. In the case of the Ainu, his playful candor exposes new trends in domestic ethnic tourism, and evidences changing perceptions of the Ainu prior to World War Two. Rather than an indigenous culture untouched by the encroachment of modernization, Kondō depicts the bumbling misadventures of four tourists in the village of Shiraoi. This paper explores these little-known illustrations as one example that illuminates the various connections between art, indigenous tourism, and the cosmopolitan traveler in Taishō-period Japan (1912–1926).

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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 // An Itinerary of Hokkaido: Photo Postcards, Tourism, and Erasing the Indigenous Body

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “An Itinerary of Hokkaido: Photo Postcards, Tourism, and Erasing the Indigenous Body,” paper delivered at the Eighteenth Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ), Sophia University, Tokyo. (June 21, 2014).

ABSTRACT

Photo postcards are an often-ignored category of photographic reproduction, but a crucial hallmark of the modern travel experience. The everydayness and obviousness of the postcard format makes it a ripe primary material through which we can learn about culture, racial attitudes, and the inner-workings of imperial ideology. In this paper, I interrogate a single early Showa-period Japanese postcard set (ca. 1926-1940) that engages with the customs of the Japanese indigenous minority, the Ainu. Produced in Hokkaido, I argue that this particular set exemplifies a much broader postcard phenomenon that negotiates the industrialized Hokkaido landscape with the loss of indigenous, Ainu spaces. The speed of train travel forever changed the tourist experience in Japan by making it feasible to reach obscure locales with ease. As a testament to this new configuration of the tourist map in Hokkaido, postcards like these stand as visual relics that embrace new tourist geographies while illuminating the specter of the indigenous Ainu village erased in the name of progress. This particular postcard set was produced in order to educate a new sightseeing public about the Ainu linguistic origins of Hokkaido city names. The Ainu are visually relegated to the periphery—both literally and figuratively—as Japanese text is superimposed over native bodies in a crowded collage. Through a creative juxtaposition of image, text, and lithographic design these postcards simultaneously laud the wonders of railway travel to the island interior while inscribing new transportation hubs with nostalgia for a pre-Meiji, indigenous past.

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Presentation // Untangling a “Hairy” Encounter: Ainu Representation at the World’s Fair

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Untangling a ‘Hairy’ Encounter: Ainu Representation at the World’s Fair,” invited paper delivered at the Isamu Noguchi & Qi Baishi: And Other Inspiring Encounters In and Beyond Modern Asian Art Symposium, University of Michigan Museum of Art. (May 18, 2013).

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