Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

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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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

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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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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 // 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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