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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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 // Optical Consistency in Ainu Photography: Tracing Networks of Transnational Reproduction

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Optical Consistency in Ainu Photography: Tracing Networks of Transnational Reproduction,” paper planned to be delivered on the “Imaginaries in Motion: Early Transnational Photography in and beyond Asia” panel at the Association of Asian Studies, Boston (March 19-22, 2020) [CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19]

ABSTRACT

As Meiji Japan transformed the island of Hokkaido in service of modernization, the indigenous Ainu contended with the invasive colonization of their land and sudden, intense interest in their culture from both Japanese and international travelers. This paper examines this nineteenth-century fascination as captured in early Ainu photography. I investigate the links between original tourist and ethnographic albumen prints, their reproduction as souvenirs and postcards, and their eventual translation into the medium of woodcut engraving. Rather than focusing on improvements in photographic technology, this paper draws upon a framework outlined by Bruno Latour to examine the mobilization of photographs to create a conceptual and optical consistency through an integration of both word and image. I argue that the understanding of the Ainu in both the Western and Japanese imagination often had little to do with capturing the reality of their lives, although this was often the claim. Instead, popular understanding depended on the visual calcification of the Ainu image into a cohesive notion of indigenous identity constructed solely from the outside. The resulting stereotypes were flat and one-dimensional. They found representation in a wide variety of media including Japanese tourist postcards, American newspapers, and photographs from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the 1911 Japan-British Exhibition based on earlier visual models. By tracing the afterlives of several key images, I discuss how optical consistency was achieved over time and how it affected the Ainu community who found themselves at the center.

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Course // Asia in America (St. Olaf College)

COURSE INFORMATION

Asia in America
ASIAN STUDIES 123 | St. Olaf COllege

DESCRIPTION

This interdisciplinary course introduces the field of Asian American Studies. We will engage with multiple cultural and historical productions of Asia and America, with a specific focus on popular visual culture, art, literature, and film. Critical analysis of topics such as ethnic/cultural identities, citizenship(s), media/pop-cultures, body images, sexuality, and adoption will be explored through the practices of different Asian communities in the United States. Students can expect to encounter interactive in-class activities, films, presentations, and field trips. Also counts toward Chinese, Japanese, and Race and Ethnic Studies majors and the Race and Ethnic Studies and International Relations concentrations.

Photo: Noguchi Museum. They explain, “Sculptor Isamu Noguchi tried many times to build a playground in New York City, but one never came to fruition. One of his ideas, called Contoured Playground, is shown here as a plaster model.”

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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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Course // Ways of Seeing (St. Catherine University)

COURSE INFORMATION

Ways of Seeing
ARTH 1150 | St. Catherine University

DESCRIPTION

“The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe.” John Berger made this claim in 1972, when he published a thin, but hugely influential book called Ways of Seeing. This course intends to bring Berger’s statement – and the insights of his book – to bear on our own experiences of art, history, and visual culture in the early 21st century. An introduction to the history of art and visual culture, this course considers local and global case studies that implicate images, image makers, and viewers. These are explored according to themes that cut across historical and geographical boundaries, themes that include, but are not limited to visual culture and ideology, beauty and art, the female body and the male gaze, iconoclasm, piety and religious spaces, museums, popular and consumer culture, and social change.

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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

Coming Soon

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Course // Global Japan: Art, Anime, & Visual Culture (St. Catherine University)

COURSE INFORMATION

Global Japan: Art, Anime, & Visual Culture
ARTH 2994 | St. Catherine University

DESCRIPTION

This course considers the global trajectory of Japanese art and visual culture from 1945 to 2016. From sushi to karaoke to martial arts, Japanese goods have permeated US markets. This class seeks to understand this phenomenon in the realm of art and visual culture through the analysis of diverse material including advertising, animation, comics, film, graphic design, installation, mascot culture, painting, photography, popular music, and street fashion. Grounded in art historical and visual studies methods, with supplementary readings from anthropology and media studies, this class will investigate issues such as the overlap between comics and contemporary art; Japanese and American approaches to animation; and the influence of Japanese graphic design on product packaging. The course will proceed thematically to address issues of nationalism, race, gender, domesticity, consumer culture, subculture, environment, minority representation, and the post-human through lecture and discussion, individual and group work, and film and video screenings. Our goal will be to critically interpret the role of Japanese art and visual culture in an increasingly interconnected world.

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Course // Visual Culture in Modern Japan (St. Olaf College)

COURSE INFORMATION

Visual Culture in Modern Japan
ART 276 | St. Olaf College

DESCRIPTION

Explore Japan through the mass production, distribution, and consumption of Japanese visual and popular culture. Students will learn how to analyze a diverse array of visual material—architecture, advertising, animation (anime), art, comics (manga), digital idols, film, graphic design, mascot culture, music, and video games. In discovering the popular construction of “Japaneseness,” the course will proceed thematically to address issues of nationalism, race, gender, domesticity, consumer culture, subculture, environment, and Japan’s relationship with its minorities from 1950 to 2015. Using methodologies from visual studies, media studies, art history, film studies, and anthropology, the goal of this course will be to rethink Japan as a site of local and global pop culture flows.

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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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