University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > Opening the West with Japanese mermaid mummies: ningyo in the making of the theory of evolution

Opening the West with Japanese mermaid mummies: ningyo in the making of the theory of evolution

Add to your list(s) Download to your calendar using vCal

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Lewis Bremner.

Mateja Kovacic discusses how knowledge in the form of ningyo mummies ‘caught’ around Japan shaped the scientific and public debate about the theory of evolution and the origin of species in the Euro-American context. During the Edo period, various mermaid creatures – ningyo – were a popular and scientific topic, studied by well-known scholars including Ōtsuki Gentaku and Itō Keisuke, as well as by amateur naturalists like the Edo greengrocer Okukura Tatsuyuki. First housed as religious artifacts in temples and shrines, mermaid mummies (ningyo no miira) were unique gender-fluid hybrids made of monkey, fish, and dog parts combined with wood and papier-mâché. From the second half of the eighteenth century, they became important actors in scientific knowledge production. They were a part of daily life in the form of visual novels, medicines, leaflets, protective amulets against epidemics, dishware, decorative artifacts, misemono, temple displays, and products in curio stores. They were also a subject of empirical scientific inquiry that reveals the epistemological multiplicity of the times, as well as the ways that epistemological systems were being challenged and their boundaries pushed further.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

Tell a friend about this talk:

This talk is included in these lists:

Note that ex-directory lists are not shown.


© 2006-2024, University of Cambridge. Contact Us | Help and Documentation | Privacy and Publicity