Art Histories Seminar
Mon 03 Jun 2019 | 17:00–19:00

Visualising Ethnicity in the Southwest Borderlands: Gender and Representation in Late Imperial and Republican China

Jing Zhu (University of Warwick/ Art Histories Fellow 2018/19)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Anonymous, “Nüguan 女官 (female official),” in an album of Qiansheng Miaotu 黔省苗圖 (Miao Album of Guizhou), undated (before 1917), Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.

This talk explores the mutual constitutions of visuality and empire from the perspective of gender, probing how the lives of China’s ethnic minorities at the southwest frontiers were translated into images. Two sets of visual materials make up its core sources: the Miao album, a genre of ethnographic illustration depicting the daily lives of non-Han peoples in late imperial China, and the ethnographic photographs found in popular Republican-era periodicals. The study highlights gender ideals within images and aims to develop a set of “visual grammar” of depicting the non-Han. Casting new light on a spectrum of gendered themes, including femininity, masculinity, sexuality, love, body and clothing, it examines how the power constructed through gender helped to define, order, popularise, celebrate and imagine possessions of empire. The insights into the visual codes of gender also aim to place Chinese imperial models in a global context, contesting how well the case of China fits into theories of empire generated mainly from European models.

Jing Zhu is a postdoctoral fellow at the department of history, University of Warwick from 2018 to 2020; meanwhile she is a visiting research fellow with Forum Transregionale Studien/ Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices from October 2018 to July 2019. She received her PhD degree in History from the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Dr Stephen McDowall and Professor Francesca Bray in 2018. Jing was a UK-China Rutherford Curatorial Research Fellow at Science Museum in London from March to July 2018, and she researched for the China collections of Science Museum for their future exhibition. Her book entitled Visualising Ethnicity in the Southwest Borderlands: Gender and Representation in Late Imperial and Republican China, is forthcoming with Brill. Her publications appear in peer-reviewed journals in Chinese studies, including JBACS and Ming Qing Studies. She is interested in the visual regimes of Asian borderland in both late imperial and Republican China, and is developing new research projects exploring exhibition history pertaining to Chinese science, technology and medicine, and the Nepalese and Tibetan style jewelries in Ming China.

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