The Curious Case of the Camel in Modern Japan

(De)Colonialism, Orientalism, and Imagining Asia

In The Curious Case of the Camel in Modern Japan Ayelet Zohar critically analyzes camel images as a metonymy for Asia, and Japanese attitudes towards the continent. The book reads into encounters with the exotic animals, from nanban art, realist Dutch-influenced illustrations, through misemono roadshows of the first camel-pair imported in 1821. Modernity and Japan’s wars of Pan-Asiatic fantasies associated camels with Asia’s poverty, bringing camels into zoos, tourist venues, and military zones, as lowly beasts of burden, while postwar images project the imago of exotica and foreignness on camels as Buddhist ‘peace’ messengers. Zohar convincingly argues that in the Japanese imagination, camels serve as signifiers of Asia as Otherness, the opposite of Japan’s desire for self-association with Western cultures.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Ayelet Zohar, PhD (2007), University of London (Slade/UCL), is a Senior Lecturer of Global Arts at Tel Aviv University, specializing in modern and contemporary Japanese art. Zohar has published articles, edited volumes and special issues on contemporary Japanese art and photography.
Listen to the interview Nathan Hopson (associate professor of Japanese language and history at the University of Bergen) had with Ayelet Zohar about her book The Curious Case of the Camel in Modern Japan via this podcast on New Books Network

This book offers a fresh perspective on representations of Japanese identity and perceptive readings of key examples of the numerous visual and narrative materials featuring camels from over four centuries. [...] this is a lovely book that will be enjoyed by anyone interested in animal studies, art history, or the formation of national identity in modern Japan. The copious images, large and in vibrant color, are not only a pleasure to look at but also an essential part of the book’s arguments.
Jessamyn Abel, Penn State University, in: H-Japan (September, 2023)
History of Japan, art historians, researches in visual culture and cultural studies; specialists in Japanese studies, East-Asian studies, animal studies, cultural aspects of animals, zoos, roadshows, wars, tourism etc.
  • Collapse
  • Expand