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The allure of a “woman in chinese dress”: Representation of the other in Imperial Japan

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Chapter Summary

During the 1920s and the 1930s, many Japanese artists painted portraits of Japanese women wearing what was popularly known at the time as ?shinafuku? (?Chinese dress?). This chapter focuses on how different artists handled their subject matter and on what this treatment says about the relationship between gender, modernism, and imperialism in Japan during the interwar period. Specifically, it examines the issue of how China was portrayed as ?the Other? by way of an elaborate, hybrid figure of women in the visual and literary culture of Japan during this time. As an object of visual representation, the female figure functioned as the ?Other? that helped male artists to construct their own subjectivity. The gaze of the modern masculine subject was projected onto the colonial and sexual ?Other.? In other words, the image of China as ?the Other? was often conflated with the image of a ?Japanese woman in Chinese dress?.

Keywords: Chinese dress; gender; imperialism; Japanese artists; Japanese woman; modernism



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