The edge of the field of vision : defining Japaneseness and the image archive of the Ogasawara Islands
This thesis examines the image archive of photographs of the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands of Japan within the framework of historically informed visual anthropology. It is argued that investigating the photography of Ogasawara, which has an ethnically diverse population of descendants of the pre-Japanese, nineteenth-century settlement, exposes the processes that have configured modern 'Japaneseness'. Towards this end, the major areas explored are early Japanese photographic practice, visual aspects of Japanese colonialism, Japanese domestic tourism and the use of photography in the creation and maintenance of ideas about Japanese culture. Extremely rare imperial, government and commercial images, including albumen prints, cartes de visite and postcards, from museums, archives and private collections are examined in this study. The trajectories of these images through the 'visual economy' are traced as they are produced, circulated and gather meanings in a variety of contexts, from early colonial encounters to contemporary tourist engagements. These processes are exposed through an investigation of early Japanese photographic practice, colonial expeditions to Ogasawara, the shifting location of Islanders as 'slippery' internal others within configurations of Japaneseness, Japanese domestic tourism and the tourist discourse in contemporary Ogasawara. This has enabled the development of an alternative history of early Japanese photographic practice and a new understanding of Japanese domestic tourism. These new ways of conceptualising photography and tourism in Japan, together with insights gained from ethnographic investigations of the Ogasawaran image archive, demonstrate that photography played a major role in the construction of modern Japaneseness, rather than merely being a by-product of modernisation. Through an examination of images from the archive of photographs of the Ogasawara Islands, one gains an understanding of modern Japan as a society more diverse than the mostly homogeneous nation it is generally represented as, and more fluid in its definitions of Japaneseness than previously thought.