Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Major Transitions: Filed, Moved, and Starting at St. Olaf College

Me and my awesome advisor, Bert Winther-Tamaki

As I rounded the final stretch of my dissertation, life didn’t give me much opportunity to come and update this blog. It has certainly been a time of major transitions for me, both personally and professionally. I am jazzed to report that my dissertation, Ainu Fever: Indigenous Representation in a Transnational Visual Economy, 1868 – 1933, has been filed with the University of California, Irvine for Ph.D. in Visual Studies. This closes a long and important chapter of my academic life! After so many years of research–both in the United States and Japan–it is hard to believe that the 300+ page document is finally wrapped up. Dissertations are works-in-progress in so many ways, and I look forward to seeing the new ways that it will evolve in the coming years… But for now, I plan on enjoying the huge wave of relief!


This is a photograph of “Old Main” at St. Olaf College. It reminds me so much of Akarenga in Sapporo.

But perhaps more crucial than the dissertation, I accepted a position as a visiting assistant professor. We arrived here in Northfield, MN after an arduous road trip across the country and I am thrilled to call St. Olaf College my home for 2015-2016. I will be teaching four courses here: History of World Architecture (Fall 2015), History of Photography (Spring 2016), Arts of Japan (Spring 2016), and Visual Culture in Modern Japan (Spring 2016). I’m currently putting together the syllabus for World Architecture which will be a fun, but challenging, topic to cover in a semester.

I will certainly miss many aspects of academic life at UC Irvine, but I’m ready for a new adventure. Although I’m not totally convinced that I can survive without easy access to Japanese food… Time to flex by culinary creativity here in Minnesota!


VS Recomposition Conference 2015It is that time of year again! This year’s annual Visual Studies Graduate Conference, themed “Recomposition,” is taking place at UC Irvine on April 3rd in Humanities Gateway 1030. Several colleagues of mine will be presenting papers if you are in the area.

The conference adopts the following interpretation of “recomposition”:

This theme explores cultural articulations of “recomposition” as a material, social, and aesthetic principle. Recomposition refers to a physical or material phase change, a process that oscillates uneasily between decay and regeneration. As opposed to the more negative “decomposition,” Recomposition requires an attention to processes of regrowth. In science, the laws of the conservation of matter and energy demands that whatever is lost must be gained elsewhere. Accordingly, Recomposition maintains that decay and growth, loss and gain, degeneration and regeneration must exist on a shifting continuum.

After a generative think-tank on the theme, the committee solicited papers along the lines of the following key phrases: deterioration, illness and death, uncounted objects and/or bodies, generative decay, weak affects, media archeology, aporia, active negation, dispossession, survival, endurance, conundrums of solidarity, governmentality of “crisis”, abandonment, ecological dilemmas, ruptures in history and temporality, dark economies, censorship and redaction.

Full schedule if you are interested!

Commensurable Distinctions

commensurabledistinctionsAs with most things in life, exciting events always happen while you are away! There is no way I can make it back to Irvine for the Japanese Arts and Globalizations (JAG) conference, “Commensurable Distinctions: Intercultural Negotiations of Modern and Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture,” but sending my best wishes for its success! Aside from having a real variety of presentations, this conference seems to embody all that is cool about working on Japanese visual culture from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, to the cartographic imaginings of postwar Japanese art, to contemporary Ainu in the museum. Visiting keynote speakers are Gennifer Weisenfeld, Hayashi Michio, Okazaki Kenjiro, and Benjamin Piekut. If you happen to be in Southern California on this Friday and Saturday, please take advantage of this awesome opportunity — I’m sure the resulting conversations will be riveting!