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Imagining the Western Other in 19th-Century Japanese Prints (hyperallergic.com)
68 points by lermontov 71 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 13 comments



I guess I understand why they didn't mention it in an article about a specific exhibit, but my absolute favorite example of this sort of thing is a, ah, highly imaginative rendition of the American Revolutionary War, complete with George Washington punching out a tiger.

Book scans: http://archive.wul.waseda.ac.jp/kosho/bunko11/bunko11_a0380/...

Previous discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18430610


Not exactly the same thing, but I saw an interesting print from Japan during the time when Dutch ships first entered the harbor. It was clear at that point that Japanese ships were technically inferior to the Dutch ones, and the perspective from the artist is interesting. https://web.archive.org/web/20171219041521/http://www.iisg.n...


These prints are currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago [1] and if you're in the area, it's a highly recommended temp exhibition.

AIC is having a great run with prints lately. Before this they did a whole exhibit on Japanese mass produced prints, using Hokusai's "Great Wave off Kanagawa" and its variants as the leading example. [2]

[1] https://www.artic.edu/exhibitions/9332/yokohama-e-19th-centu...

[2] https://www.artic.edu/articles/743/seeing-triple-the-great-w...


A while back I saw an exhibit of Japanese masks from this period. Interestingly, the noses were exaggeratedly large, because the Japanese at the time (perhaps still today) thought Europeans had big noses.


Seems like they still think so: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japanese-airli...

But I think compared to Asians, white people objectively do have bigger noses, so they're not wrong.


>because the Japanese at the time (perhaps still today) thought Europeans had big noses.

Well, compared to Japanese faces, they certainly do.


"Other" is such a cliche "liberal arts" term.

How about "How the Japanese imagined Westerners in 19-Century prints"?


Just because it's cliché doesn't mean it isn't specific and thus still useful. I don't like the term either, but that doesn't stop it being the best term to explain a rather particular but difficult-to-illustrate concept with the highest level of unambiguity.

Also, why liberal arts in scare quotes? Of course the term comes from liberal arts; social sciences come under that umbrella and have done for years. If it's a politically-charged term, then just call it humanities.


>Just because it's cliché doesn't mean it isn't specific and thus still useful. I don't like the term either, but that doesn't stop it being the best term to explain a rather particular but difficult-to-illustrate concept with the highest level of unambiguity.

A "particular but difficult-to-illustrate concept"?

Westerners (in particular) or foreigners (in general) both perfectly capture what the Japanese where depicting, without the baggage and obscurantism of "Others".


Except that it's not just about Westerners full stop; there's also an element of exoticism, compounded by the lack of proper interactions with the West by most of Japan for around a century. Clearly these depictions of the West are done from a hugely emic point of view, with the distortions of the depictions of the West distorted partly by the art style but partly from the lack of accurate information.

And yes, the concept of the Other is not easy to illustrate because it has less to do with the parties involved and more of their understanding of each other, the lenses through which these preconceptions are analysed still being debated to this day. It's helpful that there is a word, even if it's merely shorthand, to describe this concisely.

There is nothing black and white about the Other but equally this being a story simple of Western and Japanese is not as night and day as you claim.


And using that word makes the title interesting! It's not just that it's paintings of Westerners, but that it's paintings from the perspective of people to whom they were exotic and unfamiliar.


Indeed! This is the thing about the Other; the very fact that anybody can claim it should refer to one thing and somebody else can claim it means something slightly different demonstrates beyond peradventure that there is no definitive answer as to what is under analysis.


Inaccurate. Some of these images were drawn from life.




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