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).
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.