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The Politics of Ainu Handicrafts

April 19 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

This is a black and white image of a sculpture that looks like a large animal, likely a bear on its four legs with its mouth open.
Shakai jigyō 42 (1935), 4.

Monday Seminar:

Michael Hayata

Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2020-2021)

History, UW-Madison


During the 1930s, Ainu handicrafts experienced widespread popularity within the urban Japanese marketplace as the “folk art” of Hokkaido. The Japanese consumption of these objects represented the country’s colonial nostalgia for an imagined primordial community defined by virtues of rural harmony and simplicity. For the indigenous Ainu craftspeople who produced them, though, Ainu woodwork and embroideries embodied a diverse array of social meanings that were entangled with debates on the future of their communities. By tracing the life cycle of Ainu handicrafts from the forest to the workshop, this talk will examine how such objects acted as a medium to enunciate political demands of local autonomy and land reform. It argues that material culture constituted an alternative dialogical space from print culture to outline new visions of society.


Michael Hayata is a Ph.D. Candidate in modern Japanese history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His dissertation examines the Japanese colonization of Hokkaido and political activism within indigenous Ainu communities during the first half of the twentieth century.


[Due to COVID-19, this event has been moved to a digital conferencing platform. To participate please send an email with your name, university affiliation, and how you heard about the event to IRH at info@irh.wisc.edu.]


April 19
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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