Letters from Fellows at the Sainsbury Institute

From Gyewon Kim

Gyewon (right) with Nicole Rousmaniere (centre), the Research Director, and Sadamura Koto, one of the former fellows of the Institute
Gyewon (right) with Nicole Rousmaniere (centre), the Research Director, and Sadamura Koto, one of the former fellows of the Institute

This last academic year, during which I have been The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow at The Sainsbury Institute, has been a highly productive and creative experience. I gave several presentations, wrote and edited my research for publication and organized a successful specialist workshop on rumours, secrets and images.

My talks on the subject of the Meiji Emperor’s local progresses, their photographic documentation and their legacy in relation to the formation of local landscape and subjectivity were delivered at various locations in the UK. In November 2011 I presented my research at the Japan Research Centre and East Asian Art and Archaeology Seminar at SOAS. Then in February 2012 I spoke at the Faculty of Asian and Middle East Studies in Cambridge. In May 2012 I gave the Third Thursday Lecture at the Norwich Cathedral. I am grateful to the audiences of these talks for their suggestions and feedback; a revised version of the presentations will be published by the journal Representations (University of California, Berkeley) in October 2012, the title being “Tracing the Emperor: Photography, Imperial Progresses and Famous Places in Modern Japan.”

Workshop at Norwich: rumours, secrets and images
Workshop at Norwich: rumours, secrets and images

I am trying to distribute my work more widely by publication in the fields of Art History and Visual Studies. During the period of the fellowship I revised my book manuscript, which is titled “Registering the Real: Photography and Historic Sites in Meiji Japan.” I was fortunate to be based in the London office of the Sainsbury Institute at SOAS, which facilitated access to the research material I needed for the manuscript’s revision. Even more importantly, my year in London enabled me to develop intellectual relationships with many scholars of Japanese Studies. I am most grateful to them for their help and camaraderie; my manuscript has evolved in the light of their input and my work has benefitted significantly from their brilliant feedback and guidance.

During my fellowship I also continued my research on portrait photography in Japan and Korea. In May 2012, I finished writing a first draft of a paper on this topic which will be included in a comprehensive anthology devoted to East Asian Photography to be published by Ashitage Press in 2013. The anthology is called “Facing East Asia: Histories and Legacies of Studio Photography” and is co-edited by Dr Luke Gartlan and Dr Roberta Wue. The title of my essay is “Faces that Change: Physiognomy, Portraiture, and the Promise of Photography in Colonial Korea.”

Finally, with the generous support of the Sainsbury Institute, I organized a two day workshop on the subject of rumours, secrets, and images. By their stimulating interest and incisive questioning, all the participants contributed to the overarching theme of the workshop. Their involvement generated a conceptual framework for my future research, as well as steering me towards relevant resources. A special thanks goes to them.

The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellowship gave me an exceptional opportunity to deepen and broaden my research, for which I am profoundly grateful. I am indebted to the staff of the Institute in Norwich, who provided invaluable support with administration and paperwork, so many thanks to them too.

Gyewon Kim
Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow 2011–12

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