UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fracture and resistance : looking through the archive at the anti-Asiatic riot of 1907 Dziedziejko, Aldona


At the old City Hall in Vancouver on September 7th, 1907 the Asiatic Exclusion League led a demonstration against the increasing influx of Japanese immigrants. In the aftermath of this race riot, along with witness interviews and assessments by civic officials and architects, photographs of damaged Japanese businesses played a significant role in the gathering and presentation of the evidence used in the preparation of claims for damages. An anonymous photographer captured every business façade with an attention to the damages and, in most cases, posed the claimants in the photographs. Historians have offered linear accounts of the riot and Japanese presence in Vancouver, bringing to the fore the issues of diplomacy, ethnicity and heritage while ignoring the visual and spatial dimensions of this urban conflict. My project focuses on the spatial and visual implications for understanding the riot photographs. I will attempt to bring the riot photographs out of the silence of the archive by locating the mechanisms of interpretation that animate and destabilize the series, and, in so doing, to offer a “stereoscopic reading” of them. I define “stereoscopic reading” as a three-dimensional interpretation with a visual focus aimed at setting the photographs in motion against their static and secondary status as mere evidence. I will complicate the one-dimensional documentary status of the series with the aid of theorists who find their vocabulary in ethics, psychoanalysis and trauma remembrance. Significantly, these photographs have the capacity to engage the nature of the social performance of space and its users. The visual strategies employed by the photographer suggest to the viewer that the proprietors in the photos are focal, and the damaged buildings serve as a backdrop to their performance of ownership and community, counter to the original forensic purpose of the series. These photographs comprise a key element in the discussion of an encounter of agents during, and after, a violent event as well as the incorporation of this photographic representation into histories and archives over time in connection with social and ethical dimension of remembrance and responsibility.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International