Visual technologies were significant tools in the field of anthropology throughout the late nineteenth century, when they were frequently used for studying and exploring other ethnicities. This article argues that visual technologies played an active role for Japanese anthropologists not only in investigating other Asian nations but also in conceptualizing the Japanese empire as a multiethnic nation. Tsuboi Shōgorō—a founding father of modern Japanese anthropology—and his scholarly group, the Tokyo Anthropological Association, employed a variety of visual media in their work, ranging from sketches and photographs to exhibitions. Their use of visual methods, however, has been discussed only in terms of their “othering” of neighboring nations; this article, rather, explores how these visual technologies led these anthropologists to visualize the Japanese empire as a composite of multiple ethnic nations, with each group keeping its own customs and culture. This article focuses on the anthropological exhibitions that Tsuboi and his colleagues organized and participated in. It first examines how these exhibition activities produced a general-type image of each ethnic group and yet placed them within a hierarchical frame; then, secondly, it investigates how they visualized the multiethnicity of the Japanese empire by bringing all the other ethnicities to one place.
Inhye Kang; Visual Technologies of Imperial Anthropology: Tsuboi Shōgorō And Multiethnic Japanese Empire. positions 1 November 2016; 24 (4): 761–787. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-3666026
Download citation file: