Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

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 // Vaguely Oriental: Engineering Asian Architecture in Fantasy MMORPGs

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Vaguely Oriental: Engineering Asian Architecture in Fantasy MMORPGs,” paper delivered at the 48th Annual Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) Conference, Indianapolis (March 28-31, 2018).

ABSTRACT

In his work Orientalism (1978), Edward Said describes the “Orient” as “the stage on which the whole East is confined.” He explains that, “The Orient then seems to be, not an unlimited extension beyond the familiar European world, but rather a closed field, a theatrical stage affixed to Europe.” The construction of Said’s metaphorical stage is likely familiar to any art historian looking at Neoclassical or Romantic painting. From Ingres to Delacroix, odalisques with unusually Romanesque noses are surrounded by the props, architecture, and costume of an Orientalist tableau made by and for nineteenth-century Europeans.

The application of Said’s Orientalism to the field of art history was and is a common move, but the application to video games is more uncommon. This paper pursues Said’s original line of thinking in another visual mode by focusing on the way that Orientalism manifests in massively multiplayer online role-playing games within the fantasy genre. When immersing one’s self in these games, the design of the world forms a “stage” for the player. Reading Said literally in this sense, I investigate the construction of these spaces with an experimental approach that combines art historical analysis with the recent study of race representation in game studies. While the latter tends to focus on the physical bodies and attributes of in-game characters and avatars, applying close visual analysis so central to the field of art history allows us to understand the way that ideology operates in the smallest—or in the case of architecture, the largest—of environmental details. The visual settings of MMORPGs challenge us by creating specific locales that are read by the player as “Asian” or “vaguely Oriental” within story narratives that harken back to fantasy worlds based in the Western tradition. I want to envision the stakes as well as the creative possibilities enabled by such design.

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Presentation // Chun-Li’s Qipao: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Fashion in Capcom’s Street Fighter II

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Chun-Li’s Qipao: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Fashion in Capcom’s Street Fighter II,” paper delivered at the 47th Annual Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) Conference, San Diego (April 12-15, 2017)

ABSTRACT

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