The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo

Volume 09, Issue 2

Going to the zoo has become such an ordinary ritual that we might wonder at a person who has never had the chance to marvel at the dexterity of an elephant's trunk or admire the spotted slope of a giraffe's neck. Our interactions and familiarity with z00 animals come under great scrutiny in this study, which focuses on how the act of going to the zoo manipulated the politics of looking at animals as it was made into a feature of the civilized, self-governing state. Centered on the history of the first public zoological garden to open outside of Europe and North America, The Nature of the Beasts decodes the Uno Zoological Garden by focusing on its original incarnation, the Tokvo Imperial Zoo, established in 1882. Ian Jared Miller refers to this zoo as an "anthropological machine" (29) that is today deeply embedded within the urban landscape of Tokyo. The analysis of the machine is as much about how various animals were brought together during the course of the Japanese empire as it is about how humans were brought together within a built environment where looking at animals engendered certain kinds of social behavior, especially among children.

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