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Extreme Meiji Makeover: (Re)Fashioning Japanese Citizenship, 1853-1889

Date and Time: 
Thursday, February 6, 2020. 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Humanities Center Boardroom
Reframing Fashion Studies: Performance, Gender, and the Body
Meeting Description: 

In 1872, the emperor of Japan issued an edict declaring that Japanese subjects should change clothes—leaving behind court dress, an "effeminate Chinese imposition," and adopting western-style clothes-as part of the "restored" government's sweeping program of bunmei kaika—"civilization and enlightenment". In this presentation, Carriger will trace the stakes and ramifications of using fashion and personal appearance in a gambit to perform Japanese modernity (which is to say political equality) on the stage of nineteenth-century global imperialism. The "makeover" however is a tenuous strategy—in western observers' reactions to the Meiji elites' "extreme makeover," an historical distrust of theatricality in representation and gendered associations with "fashion" and deceit coincided with Orientalist tropes of the "lying Asiatic" (as Homi K. Bhabha puts it). Using a performance studies lens sensitive to the ways in which notions of "theatricality" infused her nineteenth-century interlocutors' notions of gendered, raced national identity, Carriger will begin to parse out the stakes of the nineteenth-century Japanese bid for political equity through fashion.

Michelle Liu Carriger is an assistant professor in the School of Theater, Film & Television at the University of California, Los Angeles. She specializes in the historiography of theater, performance, and everyday life. Formerly a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, her current research concentrates on clothing and performance of self in everyday nineteenth-century life in Britain and Japan, as well as how clothing and fashion can themselves serve as historiographical methods for maintaining bodily links to the past. She attends especially to the ways in which notions of theatricality in clothing and fashion simultaneously articulate and mystify the discourses of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and modernity in their work upon bodies. Professor Carriger’s first article excerpted from this work, "The Unnatural History and Petticoat Mystery of Boulton and Park: A Victorian Sex Scandal and the Theatre Defense," won the 2012 TDR (The Drama Review) Graduate Student Essay Contest Award and appears in the December 2013 issue of TDR. As a long-time practitioner of the Japanese Way of Tea ("tea ceremony"), including a yearlong Midorikai fellowship at the Urasenke Gakuen Professional College of Chado, Professor Carriger is at work on a second project on tea as a contemporary practice of historical embodiment and cultural performance. Her performance work includes dramaturgy and directing at Brown University and the University of Colorado, Boulder, as well as devised performances and short films with collaborators Molly Flynn and Elise Morrison under the moniker Cabaret Murderess.