In Between The Occident and The Orient

“By appropriating and re-contextualising traditional art forms gathered from other places, they were able to reinterpret their own cultural identity and thereby make a profound impact on their national consciousness.” Lord Charles Bruce reflects on the encounters of Europeans and Asians during the colonial period.

This presentation traces the encounters of Europeans and Asians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during the colonial period. Concentrating mainly on the movement of people and ideas between Scotland and Japan - from the earliest moment of diplomatic activity in 1858 - the presentation considers the part played by individuals cast in the role of transnationals. Operating at the edge of their known worlds they nevertheless acted critically as agents of change and their actions augmented the cross-cultural flow of ideas that shaped the modern world.

The role of artists in the translocation of ideas during this period is particularly evident, as the presentation demonstrates. By appropriating and re-contextualising traditional art forms gathered from other places, they were able to reinterpret their own cultural identity and thereby make a profound impact on their national consciousness. David Hume reminds us that “The minds of men are mirrors to one another...only in so far as they are accompanied by a reflection, of which custom renders us insensible”.

Lord Charles Bruce was a Keynote Speaker at The European Conference on Arts & Humanities 2014 (ECAH2014) in Brighton, England.


Lord Charles Bruce

Lord Charles Bruce is a member of the International Advisory Council of IAFOR. He has studied at the University of St Andrews, where he received an MA in Economic History; and at the University of Dundee, where he received an MSc in Spatial Planning and Sustainable Urban Design. He manages a family estate in Scotland which includes an internationally significant collection of private papers relating to British diplomatic history in SE Asia. He is descended from James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, a British proconsul who served in China and Japan and negotiated the Treaties of Tientsin and Edo in 1858, and the Treaty of Peking in 1860; and ended his career as Viceroy of India.

Charles Bruce has maintained his family’s connections with Japan and India. He is Hon. Patron of the Japan Society of Scotland, Patron of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies at Edinburgh Napier University, and Chairman of the Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust. In 2008 he represented the City of Edinburgh at the Kolkata International Book Festival and has since helped to strengthen cultural relations between Scotland, West Bengal and Bangladesh. He is currently participating in a joint research programme, Narratives of Migration and Exchange, led by the University of St Andrews and Presidency University, Kolkata.

In 2009 he represented the UK at the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan as the guest of the Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, and subsequently has spoken regularly on the close ties which emerged between Meiji Japan and Scotland in the nineteenth century. In 2010 he gave the Keynote Address at The Asian Conference on the Arts & Humanities in Osaka. In 2012 he gave the Keynote Address at an international symposium organised by the University of Edinburgh and the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, Cultural Policy and Creative Industries in Japan and Scotland.

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