Historical Representations in the West
This chapter presents the social background of early ethnographic visions of Ainu through reports and opinions produced by Western travelers and anthropologists between the sixteenth and early twentieth centuries. The impressions of Ainu people during this period were ideological constructs inextricably tied to shifts in Western political and philosophical thinking. From the notion of Ainu as Wild Man to Noble Savage to, finally, the idea of them as a social and scientific “problem,” the referent for Western ways of seeing Ainu has been an invention of the Western imagination. The historical representation of Ainu society by non-Ainu as little more than a fixed and exotic Other highlights the self-appointed authority that government officials and academics have wielded over time to define Ainu culture whilst circumventing the agency of Ainu to represent themselves.
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