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Massimiliano Papini (Northumbria University) will talk about: The Idea of Japan in Victorian Charity Bazaars: Fundraising, Orientalism and Transculturality in the North East of England, 1867—1912
November 22 @ 18:00 - 19:30
Beyond international expositions and musical operettas such as The Mikado(1885) or The Geisha(1896), the other type of Japan-themed public event in which Victorian people experienced a transcultural encounter with Japan was the charity bazaar. Becoming popular in Britain in the early nineteenth century, the charity bazaar was a temporary, fundraising event which relied mainly on voluntary work, generally offered by local ladies, in both organising stalls and supplying each of them with the objects to put on sale. The revenue raised in these bazaars served to support a designated cause which might be in aid of hospitals, schools, missionary societies, and religious institutions. In order to attract visitors and supporters, these philanthropic events drew heavily on entertainments, including musicians, dancers, and actors, as well as elaborate decorations following an over-arching theme. Foreign locations were among the most common of these themes, thus – for many Victorians attending – a charity bazaar provided a chance to have first contact with objects from an exogenous culture.
Drawing upon newspaper articles and archive material, this seminar will investigate how Japan was represented in philanthropic events in the North East of England through the presence and consumption of Japanese goods. In response to the heightened fascination with Japan in the 1880s, charity bazaars started to be fitted up as a Japanese traditional village, coming to function for Victorians as an effective vehicle for imaginary travel and shaping their “tourist gaze.” With this regard, the stereotyped image of Japan disseminated by British decorators was instrumental in attracting a wide audience, transforming the “Orientalist” theme of Japanese Village into an appropriate setting to even promote very local endeavours such as charity campaigns which were completely unrelated to Japan, its culture, and its people. In addition, the common practice of wearing Japanese costumes by local volunteers also reveals that charity bazaars incorporated an ambivalent transcultural nature. While donning kimonos by British individuals in local events inevitably erased the Japanese body from the popular representation of Japan, it simultaneously contributed to naturalising the Asian “Otherness” in Britain, allowing stallholders in the North Eastto promote their public persona in line with the late Victorian, cosmopolitan taste and fashionability. In other words, this seminar will explore the way in which fundraising practices and voluntary activities played crucial roles as mediators between local communities and transnational trends such as the “Western” fascination with Japan.