Department of History

"Aesthetics and the End of the Mimetic Moment: The Introduction of Art Education in Japanese and Egyptian Schools"

"Aesthetics and the End of the Mimetic Moment: The Introduction of Art Education in Japanese and Egyptian Schools." Comparative Studies in Society and History 58, no. 4 (October 2016): 1-22.

Like most modern institutions in nineteenth-century non-Western states, modern school systems in 1870s Japan and Egypt were initially mimetic of the West. Modeled on the British South Kensington method and on its French equivalent, drawing education in Japanese and Egyptian schools was taught not as an art but as a functional technique that prepared children for modern professions like industrial design. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the South Kensington method of drawing education had lost its popularity in Europe, but more than a decade before its decline Japanese and Egyptian educators began teaching children genres of drawing that did not exist in European schools. In 1888 drawing education in Japan saw the replacement of the pencil with the brush, which was recast from the standard instrument of writing and painting of early modern East Asia to an instrument that came to represent Japanese art. In 1894 drawing education in Egypt saw the introduction of “Arabesque designs” as the Egyptian national art. This transformation of drawing education from a functional method that undergirded industrial capitalism into an art that inscribed national difference marked the end of the mimetic moment. On one hand, a national art served to make the nation into an autonomous subject that could claim a national culture in what was becoming a world of cultural nations. On the other, a national art helped to make the nation into an aesthetically seductive core whose magnetic appeal could bring together the national community.


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