Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

19th Century Workshop: Circulation

California has cooled down a bit, but I would be lying if i said that I didn’t miss Sapporo right now. Every time I sit down to work on my dissertation, I find myself quietly reminiscing about the sweet (and spicy) smell of soup curry, a famous Sapporo dish. I’ve been back in the States for ten days now and I’m already getting ready for my next flight to Rutgers University for the Nineteenth Century Workshop. Excited about the workshop, but not so excited to be back in an airport so soon…

The workshop’s theme is “Circulation” and here are some themes and questions the conference poses:

The nineteenth century was an age of mass circulation of newspapers and magazines; of forced migration and exodus; of developing expertise in networks of trade and colonial exploitation; of the emergence of standardized time for travel by steamship and by rail; of the transnational circulation of theatrical performances, medicine shows, and fraudulent currency; and of new understandings of the movement of languages, species, and cultures. The end of the slave trade and the abolition of slavery in many empires and nations, new forms of colonialism (of both the extractive and settler varieties) as well as massive labor migrations, all radically altered individuals’ sense of place and belonging, and what constituted the local and the global.

How was the movement of commodities, capital, and human bodies governed, promoted, and understood by different groups and organizations?  How did nineteenth-century cultural works orient themselves to new conditions of circulation?  In an age of increasingly coordinated circulation, where were the blockages? What stayed still?

We’ll be discussing actual written pieces provided by each presenter. Although I think there is much to be learned by presenting papers at conferences, I feel like workshops of this variety are a rare opportunity to get feedback on actual written work, and a chance to write something longer than the brief snapshot a conference allows. The workshop brings together people from a variety of different areas and fields, and will surely be an interdisciplinary dialogue! If you have an interest in the nineteenth century, the complete schedule has been posted here.

Bear-Worhisppers of YezoI am presenting on a panel with Edyta Bojanowska and Carla Yanni on October 3rd from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Both of our papers deal with travelogues in different regions of the world, and I’m looking forward to comparing approaches to this kind of material. My essay is about the gradual solidification of the Ainu visual stereotype through image circulation in the nineteenth century through travel works like Philipp Franz von Siebold’s Nippon (1852), Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (1880), and Edward Greey’s The Bear Worshippers of Yezo (1884). I’m looking at how these travelers cite (and occasionally copy) earlier Ainu-e (images of the Ainu painted by Japanese visitors to Hokkaido). This essay is based on research recently completed in Hokkaido, so I’m thrilled to be getting some feedback. Here is our panel information:

October 3rd, 2:00-3:30pm, Murray Hall 302

Edyta Bojanowska, German, Russian, and Eastern European Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature, Rutgers
“Pineapples in Petersburg, Cabbage Soup on the Equator: Circuits of Global Trade in a Mid-Nineteenth Century Russian Travelogue”

Christina Spiker, Visual Studies, UC Irvine
“Constructing the Indigenous: Nineteenth-Century Circulation and Transformation of the Ainu Image in British and American Print Culture”

Moderated by Carla Yanni, Art History, Rutgers

Lecture on Edo-period manuscript, Ezo seikei zusetsu

Per usual, it seems like every talk and presentation is happening on the same weekend! Because of the upcoming trip to Tokyo for ASCJ, I will have to miss this presentation by a brilliant visiting researcher here at Hokkaido University, Vasily Shchepkin [ワシーリー・シェプキン] (St. Petersburg Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences). If you have an interest in Ainu-e and happen to be in the area, I think this will be an interesting talk. I’m sad to have to miss it, especially as I have been looking at the work Ezo seikei zusetsu lately, in an entirely different context.  The talk will be in Japanese, but here are some of the details for those interested. Admission is free and no reservation is required to attend.

2014年度6月講演会ポスターLecturer:
Vasily Shchepkin
(Saint Petersburg Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences)

Date/Time
June 20th, 2014 (Friday), 6:30-8:00pm (doors open at 6:00pm)

Location:
Humanities and Social Sciences Classroom Building [北海道大学人文・社会科学総合教育研究棟] (W Bldg), 2nd Floor, Room 202
Address: Sapporo-shi, Kita-ku, Kita 10, Nishi 7 chome, on the grounds of Hokkaido University

Sponsored By:
Hokkaido University Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies

Content: When looking beyond the content of old manuscripts, the ownership mark [蔵書印], label [付箋], and calligraphic style [書体] tell us an additional story. There are two Japanese volumes titled Higashi ezochi ikou [東蝦夷彙考] at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Oriental Manuscripts. The contents of these works are filled with an abundance of Ainu-e similar to that of Ezochi seikei zusetsu [蝦夷生計図説] (1823). When comparing this Higashi ezochi ikou with other manuscripts of Ezochi seikei zusetsu, what can be learned from the analysis of the ownership mark and label?

Japanese announcement: click here

Twin Time Travel: Isabella Bird

Today I went with two friends to see the exhibition “イサベラ・バードの旅の世界―ツイン・タイム・トラベル” (In the Footsteps of Isabella Bird: Adventures in Twin Time Travel). The exhibition featured photographs taken by Japanese professor of geography, Kanasaka Kiyonori (金坂清則, University of Kyoto) over the course of 10 years following the footsteps of Victorian explorer Isabella Bird. This traveling exhibition has now been to several locations along Bird’s route around the world including the National Library of Scotland (2005), The Oriental Club (London, 2008), University of Dundee (2008, Australia), the Hawai’i State Library (2011, USA), and recently, The Hokkaido University Museum (2014, Japan).

According to a press release in the Japan Times (2006), Kanasaka has translated several of Birds’ travel works into Japanese and adopts the concept of “twin time travel” as a methodology that allows him to visit sites from a century earlier and examine lines of continuity or change in the landscape and urban structure. According to that article, although geographers typically do not focus on a single person as the basis for the research, Bird’s exploits formed an interesting microcosmic study. Her vivid descriptions of distant locales are certainly compelling, even today, and Kanasaka explains that Bird’s work serves doubly as both travel writing and historical document.

uid000025_20140328132232526769deThe exhibition was divided into two sections on the 1st and 3rd floors (divided by a melange of exhibits about everything from paleontology to wax models of skin diseases). The contemporary and nineteenth-century photos/illustrations were stacked vertically, with Kanasaka’s photographs usually taking the top register. A small plaque accompanied each set of works containing the title of the work, the book in which it was found, and then a small quotation from the relevant book in both English and Japanese. Following the prescribed route between the rooms, one could easily see the transition between the illustrated volumes in the beginning, and Bird’s own photography towards the end, but there wasn’t much in the way of commentary. The third floor also displayed some of Bird’s original books behind glass, and Japanese translations available to read. One corner focused on the exhibition history of the show, posting various press releases from around the world.

My own feeling wandering around the exhibition space was that this was a story of Kanasaka’s adventure more than that of Bird. While the photographs do cause us to think about issues of mutability and continuity in the physical landscape, the element that felt missing in this exhibition was a nod towards the robust world that Bird herself cited from. And when thought of in this way, Bird herself becomes a vehicle for the contemporary traveler.

Villa at Lake Chuzenji, Japan.  Photo by Kanasaka Kiyonori.

Villa at Lake Chuzenji,
Japan. Photo by
Kanasaka Kiyonori.

However, perhaps scholars do “twin time travel” all the time in their own work without even realizing it. In my own case, after locating nineteenth-century photographs taken by Arnold Genthe, my curiosity couldn’t sway me visiting the towns he also visited in Hokkaido. But Genthe himself may have modeled some of his own photographs taken in 1908 on the illustrations of A.H. Savage Landor published in 1893, who in turn, had an eye on Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks of 1880. In that sense, although the way that the photographs are presented in the exhibition invites a one-to-one comparison, perhaps a more productive way to view them is as new additions to a diverse and long-standing economy of tourist images. When looked at from that perspective, perhaps the real question we should be asking is not about change, but the continuity of the “view”? Despite changes in technology and landscape, why do we seek to recapture a certain nostalgic “sameness” in our travel photogrpahs?

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