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Japanese History

Location: Rm. 1005

Sylvie Hack, “Body Optics, the Theory of Seeing the Self: Dogu, Bodies, and the Art History Canon in Prehistoric Japan”

Graduate Student, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

This thesis discusses the Jomon period dogū and places them within the greater art historical canon. Using LeRoy McDermott’s theory of self-representation and Body Optics, the Theory of Seeing the Self, I argue that dogū are representations of the artists who created them. First, I argue that the Chobonaino Dogu and the Standing Dogu from Nishinomae are representations of deities due to their fluid nature and the lack of body foreshortening. Secondly, I argue that masked dogū with anatomically correct yonic genitalia are representations of Jomon shamans due to their connection with female bodies and the spiritual realm. Lastly, I propose a cross-cultural visual analysis between the Jomon Venus and the Woman of Willendorf and offer a critique of the current art history canon with a proposal to make it more inclusive.

Matthew Mitchell, “Robes wrapping the heart: Resistance and remembrance in the lifestory of Abbess Seien of Zenkoji Daihongan in the 19th and 20th centuries”

Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Religion, High Point University

Keywords: Buddhism, nuns, biography

In the early 1870s, the nascent Meiji government forced all monks and nuns related to the imperial family to laicize. Seien (1829-1910), abbess of the Zenkoji Daihongan convent, resisted this order. She declared that the government could make her body laicize, but it could not make her mind do so, saying “You can take away the robes that are wrapped around my body, but there is no way to take those that wrap my heart/mind.” She was ultimately successful and was able to remain at the popular pilgrimage temple. Both before and after this incident, she used her position and her relationships with high-ranking members of society to fight for, and ultimately win, administrative and ritual rights for her convent within the Zenkoji temple complex. Her story is one of resistance and agency that ultimately led to the convent holding the position it does today at Zenkoji and beyond. As such, it features prominently in several publications created by the convent. In this presentation, I will discuss Seien’s life. In doing so, we will gain broader insight into women’s roles in the late Tokugawa – early Meiji transition. While women’s roles in Kokugaku (Native studies) and New Religious Movements such as Tenrikyo have been studied, discussions of Buddhist women in the Restoration have been sparse. I will also analyze her afterlives in these biographies/hagiographies, highlighting the ways that stories about her promoted the convent to the laity, served as inspiration for later nuns, and strengthened links between the convent and Buddhist and lay institutions throughout Japan.

Mariko Azuma, “The Lure of Confōto: Japan’s Early Hotels in the Late 19th-20th Century”

Graduate Student, Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University

Keywords: visual culture, tourism, travel, architecture

The study of tourism and travel in modern Japan sheds light on the calculated interplay between nation-building, state diplomacy, and imperial expansion. Within this framework, one of the key built environments of touristic pleasure and display of power that is central but understudied is the hotel. My research focuses on the Western-style hotel as a major architectural centerpiece that shaped the burgeoning ideals of leisure in Japan, both visually and spatially. With emphasis on the inception of “hotel culture” at the turn of the 20th century, my project concerns the question of a distinctly Japanese form of leisure that was designed to be simultaneously accommodating, flexible, modern, and enchanting to international and domestic tourists. By foregrounding roles of architectural stages as well as nodes of travel, I argue that hotels represent a dual function of the Japanese nation-state’s negotiations to fulfill foreign visitor’s ideals of leisure and the need for autonomous national authority.