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Mio Wakita, Dr.

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Mio Wakita, Dr.


  • Postdoctoral Researcher


Campus Bergheim
Bergheimer Straße 58, Building 4311
Room 102
69115 Heidelberg


Über Mio Wakita

Mio Wakita has successfully defended her doctoral dissertation “’In the guise of elusive veracity’: a visual construct of Meiji femininity in Kusakabe Kimbei’s souvenir photographs in the age of visual modernity,” at the University of Heidelberg in October 2010. She joined the Cluster of Excellence as postdoctoral fellow of research project C12 "The Asian Sea" in April 2011. Her doctoral research focused on the analysis of the visual construction of Japanese femininity in the Meiji souvenir photographs by the Japanese photographer Kusakabe Kimbei. Given the transculturality of the souvenir photographs and their semantic ambiguity, she investigated their visual encodings by the Japanese photographer in the context of indigenous visual practices, with special attention to critical issues such as female visibility in the mid- and late Meiji period, social identity of photography models, and visual typologies.

Whereas her doctoral thesis largely concentrated on investigating the visual “encodings” by one specific Japanese studio to reveal one aspect of multi-facetted meaning of souvenir photographic images, the focus of her research project with C12 lies in “decoding” the meaning of these transcultural image products in the given historical context, stressing the flow of images across the sea. The project investigated how the original signification of Meiji femininity represented in nineteenth-century Japanese souvenir photographs was perceived, manipulated, and embodied by their Western female recipients. The forms of reception by Western women – the target objects of investigation – range from interior decoration, photography albums to sartorial performance before the camera for private photography sessions. The aim of this research project was not only to evaluate the cultural impact of the economic image transactions; it also explored how the images of femininity represented in mid-Meiji souvenir photography transformed the original signification encoded by Japanese photographers when decoded by Western female consumers. In addition, defining Western women as the target group of analysis sheds light on the complexity in the pattern of reception of Japanese souvenir photographs, marking a significant shift from the monolithic “male West vs. female East” model of transcultural relations in understanding cultural consumptions to a more nuanced one. By way of this approach, Wakita aimed to elucidate the intricate structure of semantic asymmetry inherent in the transcultural life of the souvenir photographs of Japanese femininity, opening up a wider perspective in the scholarship on the nineteenth century transcultural relationship between Japan and the West.

Her areas of interest include forms of the modernity in Japanese visual culture, construction of Japonisme in the 20th and 21th centuries, and Japanese cultural politics from the 19th century to the present day.



1997: BA in political science at Keiô University, Tokyo

1997-2004: M.A. in European and East Asian Art History and Japanese Studies at the University of Bonn

Assistant Professor of Japanese Art History, Institute for East Asian Art History, University of Heidelberg

Research and editorial staff for the exhibition catalogue project “Kunst aus Japan: Die Sammlung John C. Weber, New York / Arts of Japan: The John C. Weber Collection”

2004-2010: Doctoral course in Japanese Art History at the University of Heidelberg

2010: Dissertation defence


  • Seckel Fond, University of Heidelberg : Travel Scholarship (2006)
  • MCH-Foundation: Postgraduate Scholarship (2006), Travel Scholarship (2007)
  • Toshiba International Foundation: Toshiba International Foundation Scholarship (2006-2007)
  • Foundation German Humanities Institute Abroad (Stiftung Deutsche Geistes-wissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland): Research Travel Scholarship (2007).  

Ausgewählte Publikationen

In the Guise of Elusive Veracity: Souvenir Photographs of Meiji Femininity in the Age of Visual Modernity, in B. Jungmann, A. Schlombs, and M. Trede (eds) Shifting Paradigms in East Asian Visual Culture: A Festschrift in Honour of Lothar Ledderose / Grenzverschiebungen in der visuellen Kultur Ostasiens: eine Festschrift für Lothar Ledderose. Berlin: Reimer, 2011 [forthcoming].

Photographie als kultureller Topos: Frauen in der Souvenirphotographie im Kontext der Meiji-zeitlichen visuellen Kultur [Photography as cultural topos: female representation in the Japanese souvenir photography in context of Meiji visual culture], Ostasiatische Zeitschrift 20 (October 2010), 38-48.

Selling Japan: Kusakabe Kimbei’s Image of Japanese Women, History of Photography 33: 2 (May 2009), 209-223 (peer reviewed).

Murakami Takashi und seine Farbenstrategie: Murakami Takashis Louis Vuitton-Serie [Murakami Takashi and his colour strategy: Murakami Takashi’s Louis Vuitton series], in Distelrath, Günther (ed) Referate des 13. Deutschsprachigen Japanologentages : 1) Kultur- und Sprachwissenschaft. Berlin: EB-Verlag, 2009, 273-293.

Abbild und/oder Wirklichkeit? „Samurai“ in der westlichen kommerziellen Photographie des späten neunzehnten Jahrhunderts [Copy and/or Reality? Samurai  Images in the Western Commercial Photography from the late 19th Century], in Historisches Museum der Pfalz Speyer (ed) Samurai. Exhibition catalogue. Historisches Museum der Pfalz Speyer, Speyer. Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke, 2008, 188-195.