RENEW 2013

The 5th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology

Riga / October 8 – 11, 2013

"Archaelogy" Participants


Phonograph as a Double Agent: Bronislaw Pilsudski’s research on the native people of Siberia

Session:Media Archeology

Panel:Presentation Session (5min-short presentations)


Venue:Stockholm School of Economics

The invention of phonograph at the end of the 19th century opened up a new chapter in cultural research as talking machine became one of the first media used in the field of antropological research. At the turn of 19th and 20th centuries field researchers equipped with phonographs investigated a wide range of fading cultural phenomena such as folk songs, rituals, stories and verbal expression of endangered languages. The new medium was not only a mean of recording but it also deeply reshaped the experience of both researchers and informers. I would like to inverstigate a work of Bronisław Piłsudski (1866-1918), known for his groundbraking research on the cultures of the natives of Sakhalin, i.e. Ainu, Nivkhas and Oroks. Due to being an accomplice in the assault of tsar Alexander III, Piłsudski was sent to Sakhalin Island in 1887, where he was able to explore surroundings. Piłsudski become acquainted with the customs, language, and religion of the native people of Niwch. Later on he was collaborating with L.J. Szternberg, who enabled him to continue his work on Sakhalin as a researcher of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1902. While conducting his research he was using photo camera and phonograph which allowed him to create a great collection of pictures and recordings of Ainu people. Piłsudski was acting as a „double agent“: he was collecting data which were expected to satisfy Imperial Russia‘s apettite for knowledge about the Far East, but in the same time he acted as a protector and supporter or local people. Especially, when Sakhalin was captured during the Russian-Japanese war by Japanese, who despised Ainu people. In my paper I would like to concentrate on the role of phonograph and photo camera as tools of etnographic research, media which had both colonial and anti-colonial potential.

Joanna Walewska studied film and philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow where she defended her PhD thesis on early computer art. Currently she works as an Assistant Professor at Cultural Studies Department, Nicolaus Copernicu Univeristy in Torun. Her research interests include history of media, video games, animal studies, contemporary art, and art and science.

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