Interdisciplinary Seminar Series on Visual and Material Culture

Museums are supposed to be more than tourist attractions; they’re meant to be a meeting place for dialogue and reflection. This winter, be part of the conversation by attending the Visual and Material Culture Research Seminar Series.

Join us every other Thursday, from 3:30 and 4:30 pm in the MOA community lounge, where UBC scholars will be engaging with the visual and material dimensions of culture from a range of disciplines and theoretical backgrounds. From propaganda to self-portraits, there is no shortage of thought provoking and timely content.

The seminars are open to all, whether you’re a student, staff, faculty or a community member in and around UBC. This is your chance to engage with a different side of what MOA and UBC have to offer.

Afterwards, participants are invited to join in on the conversation informally over a drink at the Ideas Wine Bar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

If you have questions, please contact Fuyubi:


January 15

Sharalyn Orbaugh
Professor, Asian Studies, UBC
WWII Japanese Propaganda and the Media Characteristics of Kamishibai


January 27 (Room 213) * Please note this event takes place on Tuesday

Timothy Brook, Republic of China, Chair and Professor, Department of History, UBC
Venue: Room 213 at MOA (different from the usual venue)

Inside Canada’s Forbidden City: Whose story were we telling?
As the exhibition The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors at the Vancouver Art Gallery just closed, its co-curator Tim Brook will reflect on the challenges of cultural representation and cultural politics involved in presenting Chinese national treasures to a Vancouver audience at a time when many Canadians worry about China’s influence on the Canadian economy.


February 12

Alessandra Santos
Assistant Professor, French, Italian & Hispanic Studies, UBC
Embodied Spaces in Brazilian Video Art

The paper discusses a video art project, Nome (1993), by Brazilian artist Arnaldo Antunes. In general, the essay examines ethics of artistic practice regarding public and private spaces, technology, and the body—physical and civic. Specifically, it dissects Antunes’ project of embodying language in a variety of media.


February 26                

Carol E. Mayer, Head of Curatorial Department, MOA, UBC
Venue: The Community Lounge at MOA
How Tambanum Grew In the Footprint of the Crocodile Man

Tambanum is the largest village along the Sepik river in Papua New Guinea and famous for its wood sculptures.

In this presentation Dr. Mayer will  discuss her current development of an upcoming MOA exhibition initiated by a recent donation of  contemporary works produced by artists who live along the Sepik river. These works are both stand-alone art pieces, and testimony to the river as the source of spiritual, cultural and social identity – but they are being created at a time when  new  mining activity upriver threatens the stability of the river. The artists know of the well-documented devastation such activity has wreaked on cultural life and art practices elsewhere in Papua New Guinea. The exhibition is still a work in progress – the next stage will be a research trip to the Sepik. Discussion is encouraged.


March 12

Lara Rosenoff-Gauvin
PhD Candidate, Anthropology & Liu Institute Scholar, UBC
‘Self’ Portraits from Pabwoc Village: Photography and relationship in my research practice.

In this discussion I will briefly present my decade of involvement in Northern Uganda through a history of my photographic practice. Cognizant of the often ambivalent role of photography in encounters, I will critically query the role that photos have played in building and maintaining my relationships- with both community members in rural Northern Uganda, and with academics, activists, and a greater ‘public’ here in Canada. I will then detail a new, in-progress exhibition project centering around ‘self’ portraits taken during my PhD research in 2012, and seek genuine conversation about art, research, and collaboration in terms of both methodology and alternative dissemination.


March 26

T’ai Smith
Assistant Professor, Art History, Visual Art & Theory, UBC
Textile Diagrams

This presentation will consider how manufacturers in Europe and America codified textile and clothing production through the use of diagrams: lace and embroidery patterns (first developed in the sixteenth century), draft notation systems for weaving (seventeenth and eighteenth century), and sewing patterns (nineteenth century). Combining an examination of these diagrams with a Marxian analysis, I will show how these artifacts of material culture can help us understand different moments in the movement from proto-industrial to consumer capitalism.


April 9                        

Kamal Arora
PhD Candidate, Anthropology, UBC
Sikh Women in New Delhi’s ‘Widow Colony’: On Affective Religious Practice, Memory, and the Material

This talk examines contemporary affective gendered religious practice, memory, and the material among Sikh widows in New Delhi’s “Widow Colony.” How are religious practices called upon to enforce memories of violence directed towards Sikhs in 1984, effectively leading to a community of widows? How does the materiality of the gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) intersect with the continued trauma and violence experienced by Sikh widows? How do women carve out a public space for community-building in a highly gendered landscape? Based on fieldwork carried out between 2012 and 2014, I argue that violence and memory become embedded not only in the body but in material forms and the place and temporal landscape of the ‘Widow Colony’ itself. The gurdwara space has been re-appropriated away from formal religious practice by the women of the colony, functioning as a place which enables the subversive exchange of local knowledges and viewpoints. These insights regarding the embeddedness of the gendered body allows us to consider how emotions work to mediate relationships among these particular forms of materiality, in the context of the 1984 violence, the Delhi gangrape and proliferating conversations around urban space and gendered violence.

Her work is supported by UBC and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Conveners: Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura, Curator, Asia MOA, Dr. Nuno Porto, Associate Director, Research & Co-Curator, Africa, MOA and Dr. Anne Murphy, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies at UBC.


Image: Portrait of Emperor Qianlong in ceremonial robe  © The Palace Museum.


Interdisciplinary Seminar Series on Visual and Material Culture


3:30-4:30pm on Thursdays, January-April


If you have questions, please contact Fuyubi:

Past Programs