Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}



CJS Thursday Noon Lecture Series | Contested Bodies: Female Imagery in Pre-War Okinawa

Eriko Tomizawa-Kay, 2023–24 Toyota Visiting Professor, Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan
Thursday, October 5, 2023
12:00-1:30 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
Fujita Tsuguharu’s Okinawan painting of the 1930s offers critical insights into the complex role of art in negotiating the social asymmetries of the “contact zone” (Pratt 2007). How can we understand his portraits and those of his Okinawan colleagues—artists, and admirers, such as Ōshiro Kōya and Nadoyama Aijun—as they struggled to visually conceptualize the relationship between the mainland and its colonial subject? By examining rarely discussed pre-Pacific war paintings of Okinawan women by both mainland and Okinawan artists, this essay will explore ways in which the representation of the female form—the canonical object of the exoticizing gaze—offered both colonizer and colonized space to explore the ambivalences, the contradictions, and the brutalities of the colonial endeavor.

Eriko Tomizawa-Kay is a historian of modern Japanese art specializing in nihonga (lit. Japanese painting) of the Meiji era. An aspect of nihonga that she is particularly interested in is the transnational development of nihonga and the emergence of nihonga collections outside of Japan. Her passion for nihonga has led her to explore various locations, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and, more recently, Okinawa. By examining Okinawan art, she is seeking to question the conventional master-narrative of Japanese art history.

Her approach in researching Okinawan art is to reassess the importance of symbiotic relationships between the islands of the Okinawan chain in regional, transregional, and transnational contexts; covering, in particular, the socio-cultural complexities of Okinawan identity, and the intersection between art, politics, and identity.

Her main goal is to shed light on how Okinawan arts and cultures have been affected by internal political situations and the triple subjugation to the United States, Japan, and China. As part of her Okinawa project, she is currently working toward a contemporary Okinawan art exhibition to be held in both Okinawa and England. She believes that this exhibition will challenge the so-called mainstream Japanese art history and bring attention to the unique and vital culture of Okinawa.

Her publications include East Asian Art History in a Transnational Context (Routledge, 2019) edited with Toshio Watanabe; Okinawan Art in its Regional Context: Historical Overview and Contemporary Practice: Sainsbury Institute Occasional Paper 2 (SISJAC, 2022) edited with Megumi Machida, Hiroko Ikegami, and Toshio Watanabe; and “Changes in the Japanese art market with the emergence of the middle-class collector: A study of Hishida Shunsō (1874–1911)” in Journal of the History of Collections, among others. Currently, she is writing the manuscript for her book, with a working title of Hishida Shunsō and the Emergence of Nihonga in a Transnational Context.

This lecture is made possible with the generous support of the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, gender studies, japan, Japanese Studies, Women's Studies
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Japanese Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures