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Immigrants and Propaganda: The 1517 Evil May Day Riots

May Day Riots

May Day Riots. Picture Source St Paul’s Cathedral

In this latest Blog, Dr Joanne Paul, Lecturer in Early Modern history at the Centre for Early and Medieval Studies at the University of Sussex and a New Generation Thinker from 2017, talks Rioting and 1517, with brief thoughts on such events as they relate to the present day.

After Easter, a certain preacher, at the instigation of a citizen of London, preached as usual in the fields, where the whole city was in the habit of assembling with the magistrates. He abused the strangers in the town, and their manner and customs, alleging that they not only deprived the English of their industry, and of the profits arising therefrom, but dishonoured their dwellings by taking their wives and daughters. With this exasperating language and much more besides, he so irritated the populace, that they threatened to cut the strangers to pieces and sack their houses on the 1st of May” – Venetian ambassador, 5 May 1517

1517 start of riot cheapside xenophobic speech Evil May Day Ill protest against foreigners living Lo

May Day Riots. Picture Source St Paul’s Cathedral

In the late hours of 30 April 1517, a mob of about 2000 Londoners took to the streets to abuse and even kill the European apprentices they perceived as taking their jobs. City officials, including the humanist Thomas More,

Thomas More - Source Pixabay

Thomas More – Source: Pixabay

rode out to try to calm them, to no avail. The rioters ransacked areas inhabited by foreign apprentices and traders, until the Lords marched in with men-at-arms and quelled the riots in the early hours of 1 May. Contemporary reports suggest as many as 25,000 troops were inside and surrounding central London. Rioters arrested were gibbeted about the town, and many were hung, drawn and quartered.

Execution of Thomas Armstrong

Execution of Thomas Armstrong, 1684. Source: Wikipedia. Published before 1923 and public domain in the US

It is what happened after that is most interesting, as the Crown turned a desperate attack on foreigners into a strengthening of state power. According to the papal nuncio, another 400 rioters were condemned to the same traitor’s death, but the queen, Catherine of Aragon, ‘with tears in her eyes and on her bended knees, obtained their pardon’ before the king and Lords, an act ‘performed with great ceremony’. But this was not the end of such performance. On 22 May, a large crowd of Londoners (the nuncio says 15,000) gathered in Westminster Hall, which was hung with ‘tapestry of cloth of gold’ and ‘canopy of brocade’. Cardinal Wolsey and the king delivered long speeches ‘reproving [the people] for their rebellion’. The prisoners were then ‘paraded’ in, ‘with ropes about their necks, as if to be executed’ and they immediately ‘threw themselves on their knees, shouting “Mercy!”‘. Wolsey and the other nobles joined in, begging the king on their knees to forgive the prisoners (knowing full well he already had). The king, apparently moved, ‘after addressing the people again, pardoned the rioters and had them released, so much to the popular satisfaction, that everyone wept for joy.’ The riot against foreigners had been recast as a rebellion against the state, and the result was a reaffirmation of loyalty to the Crown.

Henry VIII and his Eight Wives 1491-1547

Henry VIII and his Six Wives 1491-1547. Source: Pixabay

 

The cause of the riots had been a combination of economic downturn (as well as the arrival of the sweating sickness) and the sort of rhetoric from mid-level public figures mentioned in the excerpt above. The result was a strengthening of central state control through effective performance and propaganda. The lessons that can be gathered from analysing this event are crucial ones, which shed light on the ways in which immigration, propaganda and the power of the state are linked today, as well as prompting reflection on effective means of resistance.

St Paul's Cathedral from the Copperplate map of London, 1550s circa 1553.

Detail showing St Paul’s Cathedral from the “Copperplate” map of London, 1550s.

                                                     Sourced via Wikipedia. c 1553

Ann Saunders and John Schofield (eds), Tudor London: a map and a view (2001)

Additional Material:

‘This is the strangers’ case/ And this your mountainish inhumanity’ Thomas More addresses the rioters in a monologue by William Shakespeare performed by Sir Ian McKellen (with introduction, monologue begins at 2:28).

Blog Post Originally posted on https://www.thehistoryvault.co.uk/immigrants-and-propaganda-the-1517-evil-may-day-riots/

 

 

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AHRC International funding calls pre-announcements

The AHRC have several international funding calls pre-announced. These let you see the scope and content of the call in advance of formal launch to help researchers build collaborations. As these are preliminary announcements, deadlines and details are provisional, the full call documentation will contain all the eligibility rules and application process.

HERA

HERA call “Public Spaces: Cultures and Integration”

The fourth HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) call is now launched for Humanities-led proposals addressing ‘Public Spaces: Cultures and Integration’, the theme text and a partner search tool is available on the HERA website.With co-funding from the European Commission, the total call budget will be approximately €20 million. Proposals can be up to €1 Million and must include four eligible researchers from four different countries involved in the call. 24 European Countries are involved including France for the first time.

The full call is expected to launch on 24th August 2017, with a deadline on 24th October 2017. The AHRC are planning a webinar in early September.

 

Equip Logo

EqUIP India/Europe pilot call on ‘sustainability, equity, wellbeing and cultural connections’

This call is the first from the EqUIP Platform involving partners from Europe and India, both the ESRC and AHRC are involved. The theme text and a partner search tool is available via the EqUIP website . The total budget for this call is approximately €5.5 Million. Each proposal will require the building of consortia of at least three research groups, one of which must be based in India and at least two must be based in different participating European Countries. Eight countries are involved, with Switzerland joining since this was announced. For the UK component, the research must be interdisciplinary across social science and humanities (this is encouraged across the whole call) and must be compliant with Oversees Development Assistance (ODA) 

The full call is expected week commencing 4th September 2017, and will close at the end of November 2017.

CH logoJPI Cultural Heritage call on ‘Heritage in Changing Environments’

The Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) in Cultural Heritage and Global Change has announced a call on ‘Heritage in Changing Environments’. The total value of the call is approximately €4.5 Million and involves 11 European countries. Each project proposal must comprise of at least three research teams, each based in an eligible institution in a different country participating in the Heritage in Changing Environments Call.

The call is expected to launch on 4th September with a deadline of 30th November 2017. Further information is available on the JPI Cultural Heritage Website

 


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A Sestina for the Huntington

In this latest Guest Blog, Thomas Tyrrell talks about his experience of the AHRC International Placement Scheme, and ultimately, his “Sestina for the Huntington”.

On my first day at the Huntington Library, Los Angeles, I was allocated a shelf for my books beneath a bust of Lord Byron. Madly jet-lagged but wide-eyed and vibrating on American coffee, I was here on the AHRC international placement scheme, which gives British PhD students the chance to travel abroad and access collections they couldn’t reach on their own budgets.

A bust of George Gordon, Lord Byron, from the Ahrmanson Reading Room in the Munger Research Centre - Photo Credit Thomas Tyrrell

A bust of George Gordon, Lord Byron, from the Ahrmanson Reading Room in the Munger Research Centre – Photo Credit Thomas Tyrrell

After a previous fellowship at the Chawton House Library, Hampshire, I had thanked my hosts with a country house poem. Suitably inspired by Byron, I set myself the challenge of writing a poem for the Huntington. To make things difficult for myself, I chose a sestina, an unusually difficult poetic form where the same six words are repeated in new orders in every verse. That meant that these six words had to be important—they had to embody my experience. These are the six I chose.

Library. Understandably, this was where I spent most of my time. Henry Huntington, one of the richest millionaires of the Gatsby age, had inherited a railroad fortune and built a property fortune on top of it. Much of this cash had been splashed in buying up wholesale the libraries of impecunious English aristocrats, or of other book collectors. I largely spent my time on early atlases and eighteenth-century poetry, but treasures of the library included Gutenberg bibles, first editions of William Blake and a beautifully illuminated Chaucer manuscript.

The Rothenberg Reading Room in the Huntington Library. Photo Credit - Thomas Tyrrell

The Rothenberg Reading Room in the Huntington Library. Photo Credit – Thomas Tyrrell

Garden. The greatest attraction for the Huntington’s ordinary visitors, however, were the acres of botanical gardens, which showcased a vast variety of flora and landscaping techniques, from the stillness of the Chinese and Japanese gardens to the baroque labyrinth of the cacti garden. It was more than possible to go for a quick stroll after lunch and lose yourself for the rest of the afternoon.

A bridge in the Japanese garden at the Huntingdon Library. Photo Credit - Thomas Tyrrell

A bridge in the Japanese garden at the Huntington Library. Photo Credit – Thomas Tyrrell

Art. Among the various galleries of American and European art in the Huntington grounds, one could find a William Morris stained glass window, a painting by Edward Hopper that used to hang (in reproduction) above the fireplace at my parents house and even a bust of John Milton, the key author of my thesis. When I was stuck, I used to go and gaze into his eyes for insight. He had a remarkably sympathetic expression.

Mountains. Waking up in a brand new place, the peak of Mount Wilson to the north made a great impression on me. They were a constant presence through the trip, towering above the parking lots of the Huntington, a reminder of the greater wilderness in tension with the immense urban sprawl of Los Angeles.

Window. American air-conditioning took some getting used to, but I was grateful for it when the temperature hit thirty degrees in February. As I looked out over the sun-baked gardens from the cool, climate-controlled archive spaces, it felt like looking into another world, and I tried to build that sense of slightly uncanny transition into the poem.

Move. I needed a verb to effect a transition between these elements, and stop the poem from falling into an elegant stasis. Something as simple as possible—I considered ‘walk’, ‘pass’, and ‘go’, but I found ‘move’ to be the most adaptable to my purpose.

The Munger Research Centre, where I conducted my research. Photo Credit - Thomas Tyrrell

The Munger Research Centre, where I conducted my research. Photo Credit – Thomas Tyrrell

Then I sat down and wrote.

Huntington Library Sestina by Thomas Tyrrell

The city sprawls out shoreward from the mountains,
Grids grafted to the plain by strength of art:
The craftsman’s skill that makes and frames the window,
With the persistence that sustains the garden
In times of drought; the eloquence to move
A people with the vision of a library.

It’s cool and still and silent in the library,
Where books inform me of the distant mountains:
How hawks and lizards and coyote move
Over a wilderness no human art
Can tame into a farmstead or a garden.
Beneath my eye the page becomes a window.

The world is beckoning beyond the window.
So from the studious pleasures of the library
I go to seek out nature in the garden.
Sheltered in the wind-shadow of the mountains,
The shoots sprout strongly, methodised by art
Which guides their courses as they grow and move.

When down the garden’s winding paths I move
I see far-distant lands as through a window,
The world’s arboreal and floral art
Arranged to form a vast botanic library.
Raked gravel and old stones encompass mountains
And oceans in the stillness of the garden.

The noon-day sun beats down upon the garden
And sweat rolls down my forehead as I move.
Against the cloudless blue horizon, mountains
Stand stark as cut-outs. Wishing for a window
On cooler air, too restless for the library
I go to walk the galleries of art.

The mind and hand combine in making art,
More than in writing books or tending garden.
There’s nothing that could tell me in the library
Quite how a pigment-loaded brush can move
Over an empty canvas, now a window
On men and women, palaces and mountains.

Here is great art with power to awe and move,
A library with all the world its window,
A garden in the shelter of the mountains.

(c) Thomas Tyrell

Thomas Tyrrell gazing at a bust in the Huntingdon Art Gallery - Photo Credit Thomas' Mum

Thomas Tyrrell gazing at a bust in the Huntington Art Gallery – Photo Credit, Kathryn Tyrrell


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The Belfast Self-Portrait

LeadImage03

© Selfportrait.org.uk 16 Hemyock Road Selly Oak Birmingham B29 4DG UK brian@brianhomer.com +44 121 603 1934 +44 7958 339745

In this latest Guest Blog, Dr Kieran Connell, from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, talks makeshift studios in ethnic-diverse Belfast, and impromtu family portraits.  Kieran is also Project Lead for the Belfast Self-Portrait Project.  Although different from the normal type of Blog Posts that appear here, it demonstrates the international and cosmopolitan nature of AHRC Projects.

In autumn 1979 three photographers – Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon – set up a makeshift photography studio on a street in Handsworth, an ethnically-diverse district of Birmingham.  The studio consisted of a 35mm camera, a plain-white backdrop and a sign inviting passers-by to come in and take their own photo.  How and when each image was taken was left up to the participants, who controlled the camera via a button that was attached to a cable release.  By taking themselves out of the equation, the photographers hoped to create a set of images that celebrated the area’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity.

UlsterMuseum438

© Selfportrait.org.uk 16 Hemyock Road Selly Oak Birmingham B29 4DG UK brian@brianhomer.com +44 121 603 1934 +44 7958 339745

Thanks to a grant from the AHRC’s Cultural Engagement Fund, this project has been re-staged in Belfast.  On the face of it, this certainly offers a very different setting.  Birmingham is a city with a long history of immigration, and Handsworth – an inner area to the north of the city – has been a home to immigrants from around the world since the late-1940s.  By the 1979, approaching half of the Handsworth population were of Caribbean or South Asian descent.  The area had also become a focus for negative stereotypes surrounding street crime, poverty and urban disorder, and at various points the neo-Nazi National Front seemed to be on the verge of making a serious electoral breakthrough in the region.

Belfast does not have a comparable history.  It was home to small population of migrants from the Indian subcontinent from the 1930s onwards, but even by 1991 this only numbered fewer than 2,000 people.  The city’s longstanding Chinese and Italian communities were also comparatively small.  In recent years, though, this has begun to change.  Belfast – like Northern Ireland as a whole – is becoming an increasingly diverse place.  In 2011 there was an estimated 32,000 people who belonged to minority ethnic groups across the province – a population that had more than doubled since 2001.  The second most-spoken language is now Polish, and South Belfast in particular has become a cosmopolitan mix of international students, community centres and take-away joints offering culinary specialities from around the globe.

UlsterMuseum020

© Selfportrait.org.uk 16 Hemyock Road Selly Oak Birmingham B29 4DG UK brian@brianhomer.com +44 121 603 1934 +44 7958 339745

Like Birmingham in the 1970s, this growing diversity has often been accompanied with negative headlines and racist stereotypes.  There have been a number of high-profile race-hate crimes in Belfast, for example and, like the rest of the United Kingdom in the wake of the EU referendum, the subject of immigration remains a politically-fraught issue.  Moreover, less than two decades after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, in the minds of many in Belfast is a city primarily associated with religious sectarianism and a heightened sense of community division.

Working with Brian Homer, one of the photographers behind the original project, and his colleague Timm Sonnenschein, the aim of the Belfast Self-Portrait Project is to provide an alternative perspective.  We set up our own makeshift studios in two spaces used by a cross-section of the Belfast community: a shopping mall in Belfast city centre, and a museum in the south of the city.  We used the same plain white backdrop as in the original set up, which has the effect of focussing our attention to the people who inhabit each frame (as opposed to anything that may be going on in the background).  Likewise, each participant decided how they would take their photograph through the use of a similar cable release, and also got a free copy of their print to take away.  Unlike in the original project, though, when it took weeks to develop each image in a darkroom, these prints were available digitally in a matter of minutes.
In all, over 200 people participated in the project, which took place just a few months after of the EU Referendum over a weekend in autumn 2016.  Participants included people on their way to work, shoppers, tourists, couples, teenagers, pensioners and families.  As they had done in Handsworth in 1979, many people used it as an opportunity for an impromptu family portrait.  The images provide a snapshot of diverse Belfast, of the people from different age-groups, nationalities and ethnicities – with different sexualities, political affiliations, styles and religious backgrounds – who each inhabit the city and make it what it is today.

Now, a selection of these photographs is now going on display in an exhibition at the Ulster Museum.  Subsequently, they will form part of the Ulster Museum’s permanent collections, where they will become a kind of visual archive of a city’s diverse residents.  Like the Handsworth Self-Portrait Project more than three decades ago, we hope, they will act as a valuable resource to future generations of historians whose task it will be to unpick the history of a city in transition.

The Belfast Self-Portrait exhibition is free and open to the public in the Belfast Room of the Ulster Museum from Friday 7 July until Sunday 3 September 2017. The project has been generously supported by the AHRC, Queen’s University Belfast, the Ulster Museum and CastleCourt shopping centre.

UlsterMuseum078

© Selfportrait.org.uk 16 Hemyock Road Selly Oak Birmingham B29 4DG UK brian@brianhomer.com +44 121 603 1934 +44 7958 339745


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Call for Expressions of Interest to attend Workshop on Cultural Heritage

                                                                   Connaught Place, Delhi at Sunset

Researchers are invited to apply (via an Expression of Interest) to participate in a workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India’.

Organised in partnership with the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), the event will bring together academic experts from both countries to address an issue of growing importance as India seeks to preserve and position its rich cultural history within the context of an emerging urban landscape. It will build on a joint AHRC-ICHR workshop and small networking call held in 2015 by providing the opportunity for researchers to address challenges related to the place of cultural heritage in an increasingly urban environment in greater depth.

More details on eligibility, call document and application process can be found on the Website. Applications to attend are via a Smart-Survey Questionnaire.

Closing Date is 4pm (BST) 26/04/17.

The Workshop will take place in Delhi on 24th-25th May 2017.

For more information or in the event of any queries, please contact Catherine Bond/Gemma Evans:  newtonfund@ahrc.ac.uk or telephone 01793 416000.

                                                                                          Delhi By Night


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Dance, Manhood and Warfare Amongst the Acholi People of Northern Uganda.

Read this latest Blog Post by Lucy Taylor, an AHRC Kluge Fellow who worked on War and Masculinity in Uganda at the Library of Congress during 2016.

The post is re-published with kind permission from the John Kluge Centre at the Library of Congress.  They are one of the AHRC’s partner organisations who provide placements via the AHRC International Placement Scheme for AHRC fellows around the world.  Its the 4th such Blog from Kluge.

The Library of Congress holds some of the richest material concerning
African dance in the world. One of the most interesting collections−comprising
photographs, sound recordings, motion pictures, fieldwork notes and relevant
articles−was donated by Judith Hanna based on her research in Africa during the
early post-colonial period.
Dance represents a fundamental part of the Acholi people’s cultural
heritage. The Acholi, a Nilotic Lwo-speaking ethnic group, reside predominantly
in the central region of northern Uganda, an area collectively referred to as
Acholiland. Before embarking on my fellowship at the John W. Kluge Center my
efforts to access pre-colonial indigenous Acholi perceptions concerning
manhood and warfare for my doctoral research had largely focused on lingual
cultural forms that facilitate the oral transmission of knowledge, such as songs,
proverbs and folktales. It was only after I began to explore the Judith Hanna
collection at the Library of Congress that I started to truly appreciate the
importance of dance for transferring knowledge between generations within a
number of African cultures and societies.

Photograph courtesy of the Judith Hanna Collection, Library of Congress. Picturing Acholi men dancing the Larakaraka in 1963

Photograph courtesy of the Judith Hanna Collection, Library of Congress. Picturing Acholi
men dancing the Larakaraka in 1963

The Larakaraka was an Acholi courtship dance that granted young men
the opportunity to demonstrate their dancing prowess and physical vigor in the
hope of securing a marriage partner. As Okot p’bitek, a famous Acholi poet,
suggested in his ‘Song of Lawino’, young women used to judge and assess
prospective partners based on their skill and endurance in the dancing arena.1

‘A man’s manliness is seen in the arena’
‘All parts of the body
Are shown in the arena!
Health and liveliness,
Are shown in the arena!’ 2

During the Larakaraka the young men danced in a semi-circle with their legs
interlocked whilst singing short repetitive songs. They adorned ostrich or cock
feathers on their heads and carried calabashes in their left hands. The young
women danced silently facing the men until the moko stage, when each woman
would identify her preferred male of choice, push him out of the semi-circle and
the young couple would retreat to a quiet spot to become better acquainted.3
However dancing the Larakaraka not only provided individuals with a chance to
excel amongst their counterparts, but the scripted moves, costumes and
instruments employed also reproduced and conveyed to the audience
appropriate gendered roles and behaviours.

Dance embodied an important instrument for education within Acholiland and a platform whereby accepted behavioral patterns and socially constructed norms and values were
demonstrated and disseminated. Although important to consider the extent to
which concepts are exaggerated within dance, sometimes for entertainment
purposes, dances such as the Larakaraka can help provide us with a better
understanding of what was admired and celebrated in terms of masculinity and
femininity in pre-colonial Acholi society.

Courtesy of The Nigrizia,1932, (Comboni Missionary Magazine). Picturing dancers preparing for the Otole

Courtesy of The Nigrizia,1932, (Comboni Missionary Magazine). Picturing dancers preparing for the Otole

Before the onset of warfare, or during important occasions organized at the
call of a chief, the Otole, a physically tiring dance involving mock fights, repetitive
jumping and running back and forth around the arena, was often performed.4
Men wore leopard hides, ostrich plumes to decorate their heads, and carried
spears and shields whilst women carried a lukile, a small axe.

The Otole dance, or war dance as it also now known, served a number of
complementary functions. The vigorous and energetic movements helped
physically prepare men for the demands of fighting, whilst the sequences
performed during the mock fights instructed men on formation patterns,
advance and retreat strategies alongside the manner of attacking and defending
with a spear and shield.5

In addition to this, the Otole served to emotionally prepare men for

violent encounters, acting as a mechanism for motivation and encouragement,

and for inciting military courage and confidence. The Otole further enhanced the

men’s combat readiness through eliciting popular support,and sanctioning the use

of violence and normally inappropriate behavior within the context of warfare.6

Thus, although trauma is rarely considered during discussions of pre-colonial African warfare, I would argue mechanisms such as the Otole dance, through freeing men of guilt or regret, helped further emotionally prepare men for war by relieving or reducing the psychological impact of participation in violence.

Thus, although trauma is rarely considered during discussions of pre-colonial African warfare, I would argue mechanisms such as
the Otole dance, through freeing men of guilt or regret, helped further emotionally prepare men for war by relieving or reducing the psychological
impact of participation in violence.

Courtesy of the Hesketh Bell Collection, 1906-1909, (Y3011C), Cambridge University Library

Courtesy of the Hesketh Bell Collection, 1906-1909, (Y3011C), Cambridge University Library

The Judith Hanna collection is remarkable in terms of the variety of
resources it includes and its references to ethnic groups that were relatively
marginalized within other research projects in the early post-colonial period,
notably, the Acholi. The collection provided me with a wealth of knowledge and
theoretical understanding concerning dance in Africa, and challenged me to
further explore specific Acholi dances, such as the Larakaraka and the Otole, in
relation to masculine identities and warfare during my own fieldwork in
northern Uganda.

Those working at the American Folklife Centre, where the Judith Hanna
Collection is housed, could not have been more helpful; if it was not for their
enthusiasm and dedication to disseminating this valuable collection, I would
never have been able to extract such rich data from it. In particular the
photographs and motion picture featuring Acholi dances, of which the staff
kindly provided me copies, are helping me question whether the imagery or
symbolism embedded within these dances was susceptible to individual
interpretation depending on varying life trajectories. Additionally by showing
this material to elderly Acholi people, I have the unique opportunity to gauge
their opinion concerning how dance has evolved and adapted over time. The
importance of the Library of Congress as a repository of cultural history in a
rapidly changing and often poorly documented world has never been more
apparent to me.

My fellowship at the John W. Kluge Center was facilitated and funded by the
AHRC through the International Placement Scheme. This support not only helped
me gain access to unique resources and pursue new areas of interest in relation
to my doctoral research, but importantly the scheme also granted me the
opportunity to forge significant contacts, and explore potential collaboration
opportunities for the future. Notably my forthcoming visit to Columbia
University to work under Associate Professor Rhiannon Stephens came as a
direct consequence of my research at the Kluge Center and the invaluable
conversations I had with other academics working at the Library regarding
innovative methodologies for researching pre-colonial African history.

 

1 Judith Hanna, Dance, Sex and Gender: Signs of Identity, Dominance, Defiance, and
Desire (The university of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1988), pp.4-5.

2 Okot p’bitek, Song of Lawino (East African Publishing House: Nairobi, 1966)
p33-34.
3 Okumu pa’ Lukobo, ‘Acholi Dance and Dance Songs’. Uganda Journal, Vol. 35,
1971, pp.55-61, (p.55).

4 Okumu pa’ Lukobo, ‘Acholi Dance and Dance Songs’. Uganda Journal, Vol. 35,
1971, pp.55-61, (p.55-56).
5 Judith Hanna, ‘African Dance and the Warrior Tradition’. Journal of Asian and
African Studies, XII, 1-4, pp.111-133, (p.114).
6 Judith Hanna, ‘African Dance and the Warrior Tradition’. Journal of Asian and
African Studies, XII, 1-4, pp.111-133, (p.115-119).


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The Sounds of Strange Phenomena: An IPS Fellowship at the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

In this latest Guest Blog, Hannah Bayley, International Placement Scheme Fellow, reflects on her experiences of the IPS Scheme and time at the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, (part of the wider NIHU (National Institutions for Humanities) in Kyoto, Japan.

Writing a doctoral thesis often triggers moments of reflection. Sat in a dedicated creative writing session at Keele on a particularly grey foggy Thursday morning I found myself looking out of the window and thinking how the weather and the damp atmosphere provided the perfect conditions in which one might expect to meet a yūrei (The most common Japanese term for ghost, roughly translated as dim spirit). This kind of meeting was something I half expected to experience while sitting in the library of the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies during my AHRC International placement, head bent over publications strewn with images of Japanese spirits and descriptions of ghostly sounds.

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

I never met a spirit in that library. However, I did leave my five-month fellowship with a wealth of ideas focused on distinctly Japanese representations of sonic haunting that have fruitfully shaped the course of my doctoral thesis. I am currently in the writing up stage of my PhD which offers a reconceptualization of the roles of sound and music in supernatural Japanese horror film, and how that differs from other traditions elsewhere in the world, especially considering the number of American J-horror remakes that have emerged.

I can recall two months into my PhD at Keele University receiving an email from the Music postgraduate mailing list and my efforts to carefully assess which of the six inter-university institutes that make up the National Institutes for the Humanities in Japan would be right for me. As an institute with an emphasis on comparative studies and cultural exchange the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, or Nichibunken (日文研) was well suited to my project. Further research on the host website confirmed this, as I would have direct contact with a wealth of relevant resources on filmic, literary and theatrical traditions. Pre-fellowship I had read and accessed some of their special digital databases online. Once at Nichibunken the library staff were incredibly helpful, providing guidance on how to access a number of items in print form. I was able to view unique visual materials from the collections of Paintings of Strange Phenomena and Yōkai (Ghosts, Monsters, Spirits) and the Database for Folktales of Strange Phenomena and Yōkai (Ghosts, Monsters, Spirits). The library also had a number of microfiche collections and I retrieved cuttings from the Prange collection, publications (books, periodicals, pamphlets, newspapers), documents, posters, etc. that were censored during the Allied occupation of Japan between 1945 and 1952. Articles retrieved were all reports on cinema and film music, mainly screen guides from this period of restriction in journalism. Most of the documents were in Japanese but I was granted permission to take away photocopies for future translation work.

Admittedly, I had one concern when I applied to the fellowship and that was the Japanese language level requirement. As someone who has obtained a certificate of Japanese language competency it still did not inspire a lot of confidence in me, but there was no Japanese language skills requirement for Nichibunken, and it never posed that big an obstacle as there was always help on hand and a large proportion of the library resources are in English. Support was provided by the Research Centre’s staff, visiting researchers, and students, and especially by my host supervisor, Professor Hosokawa Shuhei, who introduced me to a number of research contacts. I was encouraged to develop both my research and language skills by attending monthly seminars in English and Japanese, as well as the International Research Symposium hosted at Nichibunken, and the Sokendai (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Osaka) Cultural 2014 Forum. I presented an early version of my analysis of transnational adaptation in the music and sound design of Ju-on: The Grudge and its remake The Grudge at the Kyoto-Nara EU Association English club.

Yutate Kagura ritual dance and purification ceremony, Jōnangū shrine, Kyoto.

Yutate Kagura ritual dance and purification ceremony, Jōnangū shrine, Kyoto.                             Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

My first-hand experiences of several Japanese performing art forms from ancient court music and dance (Gagaku) to traditional puppet theatre (Bunraku), and traditional theatre forms such as Noh and Kabuki, would not have been possible without being awarded my fellowship. One of the most illuminating moments was actually being able to take part in a workshop on butoh, an avant-garde dance form that originated after World War II. The class was led by acclaimed choreographer and dancer Ima Tenko, whose performances I had attended earlier in my placement. Never underestimate the power of networking, anywhere! I began attending services at St. Agnes church in Kyoto, where I played the organ for a few services. There, I met a conservator of Japanese paintings who introduced me directly to a research contact at the International Noh Institute (INI). I was advised on performances and arranged to sit in on a rehearsal led by the Kongō School Master-Actor Udaka Michishige, leader of the INI.

 

These immersive opportunities have transformed my understanding of the unique sonic practice of Japanese performing arts. To be able to examine culturally specific traditions of supernatural and horrific representations in the Japanese arts and how they have shaped examples of sonic practice in Japanese film within the ‘field’ has enriched my understanding beyond the scope of anything I expected. My time at Nichibunken has equipped me with the original scholarly foundations required for my doctoral thesis and helped me to shape the various cultural, social and artistic contexts for a research paper I had begun working on, which will be published in 2017. Thanks to the support of staff at Nichibunken I was also able to contact figures in the Japanese film industry ‘in country’ and travelled to interview three prominent film and video game composers; Shimizu Hiromi, Kawai Kenji (pictured) and Ashiya Gary.

Meeting Kawai Kenji at his studio in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Meeting Kawai Kenji at his studio in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

During my placement, I liked the fact that I had the option to live alongside other researchers at the centre in a self-contained apartment in Nichibunken House. A nearby supermarket, post office, bank and on-site restaurant at the institute were all conveniently located. A short walk away was what quickly became one of my favourite ramen restaurants. Transportation was very reliable and frequent, especially the bus services, as Kyoto city itself is roughly a 30-minute drive away from the western edge of the city, where Nichibunken is situated. Arashiyama, Osaka and Nara are also easy to reach and of course the famous shinkansen (bullet train) was convenient for travel to places such as Nagoya and Tokyo, especially with a Japan rail pass. Being a big foodie, I was more than happy to sample some of the famous Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets), Yatsuhashi (red bean paste confectionary), and of course experience the Japanese tea ceremony, which I attended frequently. I was even trained in the Way of Tea (Chadō, Sadō or Chanoyu, literally “Hot Water for Tea”).

Aspects of Japanese culture: match tea ceremony lesson, Tō-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda- the tallest wooden tower in Japan, and the Noh theatre stage. Photos Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Aspects of Japanese culture: Match tea ceremony lesson, Tō-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda- Tallest wooden tower in Japan, and the Noh theatre stage.                                                                                                                      Photos Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Kyoto inspired me with its wealth of beautifully preserved temples, shrines, rock gardens, the former imperial palace grounds, and I didn’t miss any chances to attend the city’s festivals and illumination events. I will treasure my many walks around Kyoto reflecting on the connections of nature, animism and the supernatural in film music, whilst appreciating the beauty of viewing both the colourful maple leaves of autumn (koyo/momiji) and the first buds of the cherry blossom (sakura) season, which were often accompanied by the telling of a tale from Japanese folkore.

I am so thankful that I spied an opportunity in an AHRC email, and applied for the IPS. The fellowship has enhanced my knowledge of Japanese ghost and horror traditions through the ages in ways that have enabled me to develop fresh approaches to the criticism of films, scores and soundtracks. The impact of my placement has allowed me to develop the leading-edge expertise that I hope will open many doors as I seek post-PhD academic employment.

And who knows? Maybe I will return to Nichibunken one day and encounter a spirit or two.