Arts and Culture
This panel aims to reconsider the formation and (re)presentation of gender in Japan through analyzing visual imageries in the various medium including paintings, prints, and photographs.
In the field of art history, feminism studies have revealed that it was not the artistic practice itself but rather the art historical discourse that shaped the modernist canon that excluded the active roles played by women artists, for instance, in the artistic traditions of impressionists. Recent social history and urban studies have posed a fundamental question on the validity of dominant modernist discourse of gender that claimed the gradual disappearance of women from the 'male' public sphere as the progress of modernization in the cities. Instead, recent contributions acknowledged the great variety of urban experience of men and women and the complexities of spatial negotiations that continued along with the transition to modernity. At the same time, in response to the postcolonial critique of Western hegemony, a new world history approach calls for the historical re-examination of the early modern periods from a broader, comparative perspective to observe intercultural exchanges, without devising normative relativism.
While the abundant examples of 'yujo' (courtesan or women of pleasure) pictured in Ukiyo-e prints throughout the Edo period, as well as the retention of such images still after the introduction of the moral ideology of "good wife, wise mother" during the Meiji period, present such body as the embodiment of idealized Japanese female beauty. However, a closer examination of these pictorial representations in the socio-cultural, urban historical context will reveal the discrepancies between the idealized norm and the reality, requiring a more in-depth analysis of the formation and representation of gender in Japan.
Instead of simple application of the traditional linear narrative of urban modernity and strict gender segregation, this panel attempts to explore the rich complexities of formation, transition, and negotiation of gender in Japan. By examining visual imageries from a wide range of period stretching from premodern to the post-war, not only as the pictorial representation of gender but also as space where negotiation between genders takes place, this panel attempts to obtain a better understanding of the complexities of gender in Japan.