Revisiting Amami Ōshima’s social-ecological heritage through the lens of an American photo archive

Between 1951-52, American anthropologist Douglas Haring carried out an ethnographic survey on the island of Amami Ōshima, southern Japan. His report was written under the auspices of the Pacific Science Board but at the bequest of the US military who had occupied Amami from 1945 to 1953. Haring recorded Amamian life using the latest photographic and film equipment, yet there is a little evidence of these visuals in his published works.

This talk explores the rediscovery of around 1000 colour photographic slides by Haring. These images reflect the reliance on and engagement with the environment historically cultivated by the Amamian people. The talk charts the return of the photographs and a film to Amami and the process of developing a community exhibition opened to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the return of Amami to Japanese control. The talk will discuss how everyday relationships with natural resources have changed, reflect on what practices remain, and consider how economic development and geopolitical interventions have disrupted Amami’s ecological heritage. It asks, what might the visual archive tell us about the way we live today and how might sharing archival content in a public forum impact perspectives on contemporary issues?

Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology, Hilary 2024

Fridays, 12pm-1.30pm

In person at the Pitt Rivers Museum Lecture Theatre.

Convened by Chihab El Khachab and Chris Morton