This essay examines the interlayered relations between photography, archive, and science in imperial Japan and postcolonial Korea. It specifically takes its cue from two archival contexts: the archive made by Uchida Keitarô, a Japanese ichthyologist who surveyed in colonial Korea during the 1930s, and that archive's reorganization in the form of an exhibition in Seoul in 2004. Uchida investigated “native Korean fish” for the colonial government for fifteen years beginning in 1927. He employed photography especially for identifying and historicizing the life of the native Korean fish. Uchida's photographs were missing for over seventy years, however, after being used by Jeong Moon-Ki, a representative Korean ichthyologist in the postcolonial era. Uchida's glass plates were discovered by chance and were archived and displayed in 2004 in an exhibition titled The Fish Locked in a Glass Plate. In this exhibition, Lee Gyeong-Min, the archivist and curator of Uchida's photographs, attempted to reveal the exhibition's connection to the power/knowledge equation in colonial science, while at the same time seeking to reground the site of the archive for writing a new history of the colonial past. This essay seeks to address what is entailed in this attempt to unpack the colonial archive in the postcolonial age, and how the new archive engages in the critical reflection of historiography of imperial Japan and colonial Korea.

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