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Visual Construction of the Dutch: From the Perspective of the “Tōjin”

  • Keiko Suzuki (Ritsumeikan University)
Wednesday 20 March 2024
Leiden Lecture Series in Japanese Studies
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


This presentation will re-examine popular imagery of the Dutch during the Edo period, when Japanese commoners often referred to foreigners by the general term of tōjin (Tang or Chinese people) and to imports by tōbutsu (Tang or Chinese goods). Focusing on this fact, Keiko Suzuki previously argued that such power to recombine and re-present foreign peoples and imports under the name of “Tang” contributed not only to the homogenization of things associated with the term “Tang”—and thus to the construction of a collective Other, as opposed to a Japanese Self—, but also to the diminishing of the cultural authority that traditional China represented.

Giving consideration to that, this presentation will reexamine the relationship between the Dutch and the tōjin in terms of popular imagery. That is, as the Dutch were the newest tōjin as well as the only Westerners, how did this fact affect the tōjin-construction? More importantly, how did the tōjin-construction affect the Dutch counterpart? As an answer to these questions, the presentation investigates ukiyo-e prints that captured the Dutch’s physical and cultural features, their ships, imports, and popular entertainments, as the Japanese visualized. By doing so, Suzuki will argue not only the Dutch’s significance vis-à-vis tōjin but also draw attention to ukiyo-e as visual evidence of the commoners’ modes of knowledge transfer that contributed to the construction and transformation of the Dutch’s imagery.

About the speaker

Keiko Suzuki received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Currently teaching part-time, she is former Professor, Kinugasa Research Organization; and Deputy-director, Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. Her research aims at investigating international (mis)understanding that appears in visual and material culture. Her most recent publication includes: “Border-crossings Seen in Machine Printing and Designs,” in Kimono and Designs: 150 years of Producers and Sellers, pp.125-149, 2020 (in Japanese).

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