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Smits, Ivo

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Ivo Smits, born in Amsterdam, in 1965. Ph.D. from Leiden University. Professor of Arts and Cultures of Japan at Leiden University.

Fellow (1 September 2012 – 31 January 2013)

European Emblems in Japan, ca. 1800: What Did They Mean to Whom?

This project focuses on an overlooked debate in Japan ca. 1800 concerning the European concept of emblems (17th-18th century Dutch zinnebeeld, Japanese shinnebêru). It uses this particular debate as a case study to investigate how Japanese intellectuals and artists in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries understood European codes of imagination and communication. Studies of the Japanese field of "Hollandology" (rangaku) so far have emphasized a Japanese interest in Western technique. This project, on the contrary, attempts to tie rangaku writings by Japanese to literary and artistic interpretations of European cultural concepts. Focusing on the work of Shiba Kôkan (1747-1818), a versatile artist, thinker and writer, the project will explore the insights Japanese intellectuals gained from the emblem debate, and their incorporation into domestic discourse.

Selected Publications

"Minding the Gaps: An Early Edo History of Sino-Japanese Poetry", in Uncharted Waters: Intellectual Life in the Edo Period, ed. Anna Beerens and Mark Teeuwen (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

"China as Classic Text", in Tools of Culture, ed. Edmund Goble et al.(Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, 2009).

"The Way of the Literati: Chinese Learning and Literary Practice in Mid-Heian Japan", in Heian Japan, Centers and Peripheries, ed. M. Adolphson et al. (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2007).

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