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Seminar: Trading Places: Photography and Anglo-Australian Merchants in Meiji Japan / 25 October

In recent years scholars both in Japan and Australia have become increasingly concerned with the close ties between these two emerging nation-states in the nineteenth century. Whereas much of the scholarship on Japan’s international relations of the period has focused on the Euro-American ‘treaty port’ powers, this talk asserts the significance of merchants as transcultural mediators in the Asia-Pacific region. To do so, the analysis will focus on vernacular, often marginalised forms of visual culture such as family photograph albums, postcards, private art collections, and company adverts. Specifically, this talk will examine as case studies two business partners in Meiji Japan who shared strong personal ties to the Australian colony of Victoria: Samuel Cocking and Theophilus Alexander Singleton. Through their long-term careers spanning their entire adult lives in Japan, this talk aims to highlight the direct cultural ties between nineteenth-century Japan and Australia, and in so doing, to challenge those twentieth-century historical narratives that understood the two nations’ ties as mediated through the Euro-American metropolitan centres.

Luke Gartlan is Senior Lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews and serves as editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed quarterly journal History of Photography.

Venue:Room: KLT

Organiser: Centres & Programmes Office & SOAS Japan Research Centre

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