Transcultural flows from Japan to the North East of England 1862-1913: visual and material culture in relation to the Anglo-Japanese interaction

Papini, Massimiliano (2021) Transcultural flows from Japan to the North East of England 1862-1913: visual and material culture in relation to the Anglo-Japanese interaction. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis investigates the relationship between Japan and Britain through the promotion, diffusion, reception, and appreciation of Japanese visual and material culture in the North East of England between 1862 and 1913, focusing on both art and design as well as high and popular culture. This regional study clearly demonstrates the nuanced ways in which the Anglo-Japanese transcultural relationship evolved during the Victorian period, – more so than previous art historical studies which focused broadly on Anglo-Japanese exchange or on the works of specific artists or designers. In addition to re-evaluating the international trade and diplomatic relation between the Asian country and the British region from a cultural standpoint, this study sheds light for the first time on the ways in which Japan, its culture, and its people were presented and domesticated in both urban and rural communities of the North East through images of Japan and Japanese objects. Rather than accepting a simplistic and strict dichotomy between “East” and “West,” Japanese visual and material culture has been analysed through the concept of transculturality, which facilitates the identification of the multiple – and occasionally contradictory – ways in which Japanese textiles, fans, screens, ceramics, and other decorative articles, have been discussed, purchased, displayed and consumed in different “contact zones” such as regional newspapers, public events, charity bazaars, shops, and domestic interiors.

This thesis argues that the dualism between a pre-modern and unchanging “Old” Japan and an industrialised and militaristic “New” Japan became a daily topic of much interest even in rural areas of the North East thanks to cultural mobilisers such as newspaper journalists, lecturers, museum curators, performers, companies of decorators, retailers, and authors of domestic advice literature. While reinforcing an unequal power relationship between the dominant British Empire and subaltern Meiji Japan, the resulting image of the Asian country was characterised by an ambiguity which not only favoured the diffusion of cosmopolitan liberalism, but also partly questioned strict dichotomies such as Self/Other and masculine/feminine encoded in the racial discourse concerning Japanese culture in Britain.

This comprehensive investigation of the multiple ways in which the North East was entangled with a transcultural phenomenon such as the European and American enthusiasm for everything Japanese opens new grounds of enquiry providing a more nuanced understanding of the everyday experience of foreign cultures in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Japanese art, cultural mobility, nineteenth century England, everyday, contact zones
Subjects: W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2022 07:27
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2022 08:00

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