The Ainu as 'Other': Representations of the Ainu and Japanese Identity Before 1905

  • Katie Bresner Department of Anthropolgy


The Ainu of Japan have endured a history of subordination, exploitation, and assimilation, pushed to the margins of society by Japanese imperialism. This article traces a series of visual representations of the Ainu before the Meiji Period up until the early twentieth century. Focusing on the Japaneseperceptions or ‘ways of seeing’ the Ainu, this article seeks to demonstrate how closely these were connected to the political and social changes in Japan during this time period. In particular, the changes that occurred with the end of Japanese isolation and the impact of photography and Western science on Japanese and international perceptions of the Ainu areexamined. Using the example of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, how photography and presentation transformed the ‘ways of seeing’ the Ainu is demonstrated.
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