Imaging Native Landscape: Leftist Poetry, New Drama, and Photographic Vision in Taiwanese Literature during the 1930s-1940s
4: Photography and Historiography in Japanese Colonial Taiwan in the 1940s
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of California, Berkeley, United States
Focusing on photobooks and fictions about photography in colonial Taiwan, this paper rethinks the photographic encounter as a technologically mediated milieu, in which the historical participants navigate through Japanese colonial modernity. I consider the camera and photographs less as a colonizing instrument than a technological mediator. Rather than a subject-object relation, photographic encounters create the (com)motion among the human, technical, and environmental participants. Within their infinite encounters, new sets of relations can be unfolded and alternative histories can be told.
From this perspective, the project studies the photographic engagement with historiographical knowledge. In its technical transformation from handicraft production to mass manufacture, photography’s unique way to capture and reveal the historical contingency allows different social, epistemological and environmental systems to speak through one image. Responding to different social roles of photography, two fiction writers provide careful reflections on the relationship among the camera, the photographer, the photographed, and their material environments. Nishikawa Mitsuru’s fiction Taiwan cross-island railway depicts photography as an emergent archival technology against the war journalist. Photography establishes a ghostly timelessness by retrieving the glory of a deceased emperor, which ironically undermines the delusional progression of an imperial writing project. In Lu Heruo’s “Magnolia”, the technological alienation of the senses gets to be reorganized through children’s play with the camera. Children’s mimesis became a way of reconciling the clash of the colonial and indigenous epidemic systems, and ultimately the colonial power was translated into a gesture of fading away.