Artist as Producer and Kitsch: The Ethnographic Turn and the Colonial Collection



Aimee Kwon

Date and Time

October 28, 2013 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM October 27.


521 Memorial Way, Knight Building, Room 102 Stanford University

In the 1930s, with Japan’s expansions into the Asian continent, colonial Korean culture in general, and literature in particular, came to take important roles as both subject and object of such imperial expansions. This paper reexamines the colonizer and colonized binary by re-contextualizing the rise of translated texts packaged as ethnographic “colonial collections.”  In particular, this paper historicizes the ethnographic turn relegated to colonial culture by examining the rise of colonial collections as a manifestation of mass-produced objects of colonial kitsch at this time. The complex position of the colonial artist/writer cum (self-)ethnographer situated in between the colony and the metropole embodies an uncanny contact zone as the artist and work of art become reified as objects of imperial consumer fetishism.  In the colonial encounter, the artist as producer and the art object of his or her labor meld into indistinguishable and interchangeable forms, as producer and product of kitsch. In such relations of colonial alienation, cultural producers struggled to map out spaces as agents of artistic expression, while agency for the colonized artist often meant further alienation through self-ethnography or through mimicry of the colonizer’s racialized forms and discourses.

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