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Japanese Majolica Tiles in Late Colonial India Sanitation, Consumption, and the Making of National Landscape

Japanese Majolica Tiles in Late Colonial India Sanitation, Consumption, and the Making of National Landscape

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Japanese Majolica Tiles in Late Colonial India Sanitation, Consumption, and the Making of National Landscape
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<strong>Centre for Historical Studies School of Social Sciences</strong> a Lecture <strong>Japanese Majolica Tiles in Late Colonial India Sanitation, Consumption, and the Making of National Landscape</strong> <strong>Aki Toyoyama</strong> National Museum of Ethnology <strong>16th February 2016</strong> This lecture aims at understanding the status of India-Japan trade in a global context of the early 20th century, focusing on the export of Japanese decorative tiles (commonly known as majolica tiles) to India. Tiles formed a part of various miscellaneous goods that were thrivingly exported from Japan to India during the inter-war period. Since tiles are often preserved in their original condition as long as buildings remain, they may give us a more substantial idea than other commodities as to how and why Japanese goods were actively consumed by Indian people in the last decades of the British rule. Tiles were generally introduced to India under the colonial administration in the 19th century as a result of the development of the British tile industry although some of the Muslim-dominant regions had a long tradition of tile architecture. Indian local elites initially accepted Victorian tiles as a status symbol, however, a series of epidemics in the late 19th century encouraged the middle classes to use tiles to improve public health condition. In spite of an increasing demand for tiles in the Indian market, the British industry could not meet it because of the post-World War I depression. Grasping this opportunity, the Japanese tile industry manufactured cheaper copies of British tiles, named 'majolica' after the Renaissance polychrome pottery, and successfully entered the Indian market. Slightly after this entry, Japanese majolica tiles adopted Hindu iconography for further popularisation of Japanese products in the Indian market. From an Indian perspective, consumption of the Japanese tiles strongly reflected the boycott of British goods. Also, Hindu images represented in Japanese majolica tiles were closely connected to the nationalist movement. To sum up, this talk demonstrates that sanitisation of spaces with made-in-Japan tiles that represented Hindu mythological subjects consequently integrated consumers into a common aestheticism - the national landscape of India that come down to the present-day. Aki Toyoyama is Research Fellow at the Contemporary India Area Studies Programme in the National Museum of Ethnology (Osaka, Japan). Specialising in art history of South Asia, her current research focuses on the arts of colonial India, particularly the development of residential mansions of newly emerging mercantile classes such as the Marwaris from Rajasthan and the Chettiars from Tamil Nadu. She is also researching intra-Asian correlations of art and architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries, in relation to economic imperialism of Europe, migration networks of mercantile communities, and Japanese Pan-Asianism. For these projects, she has conducted fieldwork across South and Southeast Asia, and also inside Japan. Her recent articles include "Majolica Fever in India: The Consumption of Japanese Decorative Tiles in British India" in Bijutsu Forum 21 (2015, in Japanese), "Asian Orientalism: Perceptions of Buddhist Heritage in Japan" in Routledge Handbook of Heritage in Asia (Routledge, 2012), and "Indigenous Tradition, Reproductive Modernity: The Haveli Murals, Popular Art and Marwari Identity in Colonial India" in Journal of the Japanese Association for South Asian Studies (2012, in Japanese).

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Initially, established as a Centre for Chinese and Japanese Studies, it subsequently grew to include Korean Studies as well. At present there are eight faculty members in the Centre. Several distinguished faculty who have now retired include the late Prof. Gargi Dutt, Prof. P.A.N. Murthy, Prof. G.P. Deshpande, Dr. Nranarayan Das, Prof. R.R. Krishnan and Prof. K.V. Kesavan. Besides, Dr. Madhu Bhalla served at the Centre in Chinese Studies Programme during 1994-2006. In addition, Ms. Kamlesh Jain and Dr. M. M. Kunju served the Centre as the Documentation Officers in Chinese and Japanese Studies respectively.

The academic curriculum covers both modern and contemporary facets of East Asia as each scholar specializes in an area of his/her interest in the region. The integrated course involves two semesters of classes at the M. Phil programme and a dissertation for the M. Phil and a thesis for Ph. D programme respectively. The central objective is to impart an interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding of history, foreign policy, government and politics, society and culture and political economy of the respective areas. Students can explore new and emerging themes such as East Asian regionalism, the evolving East Asian Community, the rise of China, resurgence of Japan and the prospects for reunification of the Korean peninsula. Additionally, the Centre lays great emphasis on the building of language skills. The background of scholars includes mostly from the social science disciplines; History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, International Relations and language.

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