Welcome to the Conference
Politics of Public Space
At the University of Pennsylvania
November 11-12, 2011
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The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required.
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Call for Papers
CFP: Comparative Perspectives: Politics of Public Space in Korea
Dates: November 11-12, 2011
This conference will provide an opportunity to reassess and reconfigure existing frameworks regarding public action (by individuals and groups) through papers that advance our understanding of the role of public space in Korean society and culture. Social sciences and humanities scholars who are interested in Korea or in Korea in the region are welcome to submit papers situated in contemporary or historical time periods. Interested participants are encouraged to draw from and discuss recent innovations in their respective fields with respect to time, space and identity formation in public spaces.
Submissions are encouraged that address at least one of the following themes: ‘public’ and ‘private’; memorialization and ritual; identity and temporality; security and stability; socio-structural transformation; institutional actors. Papers that depart from classic state-society dichotomies are particularly welcome.
Submit paper proposals (maximum 250 words) by September 16, 2011, to Saeyoung Park (firstname.lastname@example.org). Notification of acceptance will be sent on September 19. Selected presenters must submit papers of 12-15 pages by October 18. All papers are pre-circulated. Papers by junior faculty and advanced graduate students are especially welcome.
This conference is made possible with funding from the Academy of Korean Studies, as well as the generous support of the James Joo-Jin Kim Korean Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. The organizers are Nicholas Harkness (Harvard University) and Saeyoung Park (University of Pennsylvania).
Direct all queries to Saeyoung Park at email@example.com.
List of Abstracts
- Discussants: Hyung Il Pai and J.J. Suh
- Jiyeon Kang: "Corporeal Memory, Ephemeral Agency, and the Making of a Post-Ideological Social Movement: Remembering the 2002 South Korean Candlelight Vigils"
This study investigates the meaning of the 2002 ch’otpul siwi [candlelight vigils], which began in commemoration of two schoolgirls struck and killed by a US military vehicle, and since then consolidated to a repertoire of protest for South Korean youth. Based on focus group interviews conducted in 2006 with South Koreans born after 1980, I found that the political and personal meaning of the 2002 vigils emerges at the intersection of South Korea’s ideological remnants from the 1980s, the interviewees’ corporeal memory of the 2002 vigils, and their personal trajectories between 2002 and 2006, which for many participants marked their entry into early adulthood. It was this process that made for a post-ideological social movement in South Korea, namely, a movement that aspires to create social change without resorting to the repertoire of an ideologically mobilized populace battling the state. I propose corporeal memory and ephemeral agency as analytical mechanisms through which this subtle transition took place. Generally considered an apolitical generation, 2002-era youth thought of the vigils as pre-ideological and passionate: this was “political” participation that ruptured their often easy association of protest with fear and stigma, an association forged in the 1980s contestation between authoritarian regimes and the democratization movement. I thus think of the vigils as an instance of ephemeral agency and a burst of acceptable political activity for this generation. Although temporary in its manifestation, I consider this agency to have left an enduring impact upon these youth, which leaves open the possibility of future activism.
- Albert Park: "Society, Space and Modernity: The Role of Architects in the Construction of the Public in Modern Korea"
Since the Japanese colonial period, Korean architects have confronted the challenge of not only defining and conceptualizing the principles of modernity, but also materially realizing it. In postwar South Korea, their search and quest for the modern ideal has been intertwined with and shaped by nationalism, political authoritarianism, fast-paced industrial capitalism and cultural transformations and dislocations in everyday life. As such, architecture in South Korea has been fully entrenched within the social, thereby leading architects to question what role spatial production has in constituting and influencing the public realm in ways that would achieve their visions of the modern. Crafting answers to this question, in particular, has been full of challenges since many South Korean architects have undertaken projects that have mostly been associated with the private realm and have immediately benefited few.
This exploratory paper briefly traces the history of modern architecture in Korea and seeks to analyze the role of Korean architects in the creation of the public realm. Specifically, in examining their conceptions of the public realm and its relations to modernity, this paper investigates their views on society, the private realm, subjectivity and agency. In order for a concrete investigation of these ideas, this paper focuses on the beliefs and designs of various architects such as Kim Swoo-geun, Seung Hyo-sang and Cho Min-suk. Since their designs have played vital roles in shaping discourse and people’s experiences in the public realm, studying their ideas not only shed light on the relationship between architecture and modernity, but also the historical meaning of “public” in South Korean society.
- Jaeeun Kim: "'Who Owns the Nation?': Cold-War Competition over Colonial-Era Korean Migrants in Japan"
The incongruity among territory, citizenry, and nation has long attracted scholarly attention in the fields of international migration and nationalism. This paper complicates our understanding of the idea of “homeland,” by examining the relationship between the state and its transborder population, specifically, the Cold War relationship between the two postcolonial Korean states (North and South Korea) and colonial-era migrants who remained in Japan. I show how these inchoate postcolonial states competed to claim and transform colonial-era migrants into their own citizens, and highlight their different transborder nation-building strategies, which I call haven, broker, and gate-keeper. I argue that becoming a
“homeland state” for a transborder population is not a de facto ethnodemographic state of affairs but reflects an arduous and precarious political process, by discussing three factors that determine the “homeland state”’s capacity to claim a certain transborder population as its own. The paper contributes to the literature on post-colonial state-building and transborder membership politics, and advances our understanding of the complex configuration of state, nation, and space.
- Discussants: Seungsook Moon and Laurel Kendall
- Jim Thomas: "The Politics of Public Space and the Publics of Political Space in South Korea: 1987 to 2008"
The most powerful Korean political mobilization in recent years, the 2008 candlelight vigil which threatened to bring down President Lee Myung-bak, has been badly misconstrued as either a popular uprising against a corrupt state or a misinformation campaign by political opportunists using blogs. When Lee's administration was threatened in the heat of that vigil--after having touted Korea's record setting broadband use and internet forums as the straightest route to modernity and full democracy--it attempted to quash the content of those very same forms (as "undemocratic" and even "criminal").
Conventional scholarship on 1980s and early 1990s Korea, which dichotomizes "the people" and "the state" and depicts populist movements exclusively as resistance to state and corporate control and repression, would have us believe that we are dealing with the same old forces. But even after significant democratization, the public/private distinction--assumed to be a precondition of democratic and civil society movements elsewhere--remains blurred in Korea. And even a decade after IMF restructuring, powerful corporate forces and loyalties set trends and shape political sentiments and actions. I will draw this out by contrasting Korean politics in late 1980s vs 2008, Korea's old social networks and new media social networks in Korea, old urban political space and new urban political space in Korea, and Korea's 2008 candle light vigils and the 2011 Arab Spring. This will show that uniformity and conformity have become central elements in national socio-political transformation, such that "national homogeneity" and "stability" are more than just political slogans spouted by the state.
- Su Young Choi and Younghan Cho: "Online Formation of Discursive Public Space: Social Media and Social Movements in South Korea"
This study examines how discursive public space is constituted by the mediations, both online and offline, of social media that have been utilized by recent social movements in South Korea, and argues that personal narratives and social discourses are intertwined in social media even as online discourses and public activity are mutually constitutive within social movements. Two cases are used to illustrate these points. One is the mobilization of an online community and its members in protests against U.S. beef imports in 2008. The other is the creation of support groups on Twitter during the protests by 174 janitors against being laid off by Hongik University in 2010. In both of these cases certain discourses that were first mediated online, created temporary public spaces that comprised connections, emotions, energy, voluntary participation, debates about social issues, and a sense of community. Four aspects of forging discursive public space are identified: 1) collaboration and networking; 2) affect and empowerment; 3) disputes and rationalizations; and 4) provision of a sense of belongingness. The study concludes that the active mediations of social media contribute to the formation of discursive public spheres in which marginalized voices can stimulate public deliberation, invoke public action, and function as an intervening power in important decisions.
- Discussants: Hyung Il Pai and Seungsook Moon
- Jae-Yon Lee: "Contentious Public in Translation"
While studying colonial Korea (1910-45), I have encountered two kinds of difficulties. The first stems from the historical fact that Korean writers and intellectuals imported Japanese translations of Western social and literary ideologies. Since using Japanese terms for concepts such as “individual,” “society,” “culture,” “aesthetics,” etc. was unavoidable in discussing modernity in Korean context, the trajectories of this doubly translated modernity (from the West to Japan and from Japan to Korea) are barely visible in colonial books and periodicals. In short, “Japan” as the dominant translator of Western culture in East Asia is overshadowed by the denotation of “West” in translation. The second, which will be the topic of my presentation, is about literary scholarship in Korea on a colonial public space. In translating Western critical terms, researchers transgress the initial theoretical boundaries on the one hand, and on the other, generate “creative” refractions and fusions in usage. My presentation will examine how current literary historians in Korea translate three major debates on ‘the public’ – Habermas’s public sphere, Foucault’s discursive field, and Bourdieu’s artistic field – in order to problematize Korea’s colonial public space. The focus is not on rigor or precision in the translation of Western theories. Instead, I intend to pinpoint the concrete socio-historical contexts in Korea wherein Western theories may lose their explanatory grounds. By so doing, I suggest what kinds of new theories that are required to address colonial Korea’s public space more meaningfully.
- Lisa Kim Davis: "Public Space and Public Art in the City in the Age of Redevelopment"
This paper looks at the Anyang Public Art Project of 2010, an arts festival that sought to widen public engagement and dialogue about city design and planning at a challenging time for the city of Anyang. I argue that in a climate where redevelopment has been the dominant mode of bettering the city for decades, innovative spatial interventions could contribute to imagining innovative, diverse, and inclusive ways of keeping up the city, and encouraging pluralistic democratic discourse about managing public space. The APAP 2010 festival model offers a roadmap for emulation as Korean cities adjust to a time of slowed growth and declining economic prospects due to gradual deindustrialization.
- Discussants: Laurel Kendall and J.J. Suh
- Nicholas Harkness: "Ethnonational Time, Public Space, and the Politics of Progress in South Korea"
In this paper, I examine the way two conflicting perspectives on Korean ethnonational progress emerged from the appropriation of public space by protesters in Seoul in 2008. On one side was conservative Korean Christianity embodied in the image of the president and institutionalized in the megachurch to which he belongs. On the other side was the image of the anti-government protests themselves, construed by particular interests as the expression and will of the “people.” In the cases described below, each side claimed to represent the true, legitimate, positive agents of recent Korean history, and viewed the other as an unwanted residue of a troubled and troublesome past. These different historicizing perspectives contributed to judgments about the legitimate use of public space and to the conceptualization of a Korean “public” more broadly.
- Sun-Chul Kim: "From Static Structures to Molecular Processes: A Note on the Study of South Korean Contentious Politics"
This paper contends that the scholarship on South Korean politics, democratization, and civil society has overly relied on static frameworks that made our understanding of politics and democracy look like a matter of matching pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Over-reliance on the tripartite framework of state-political society-civil society has induced the scholarship to search for a perfect match (or equilibrium) as if politics followed the logic of mechanics. At the same time, history has often been broken down into distinctive phases as if temporality followed an a priori path and pace. Lost in the scholarship has been the dynamism that underlines political processes and the study of concrete actors whose contentious interactions among them propel political dynamism. For illustration, the paper takes issue with three observations that have been commonly accepted in the literature on South Korean democratization: 1) that South Korean democratization came as a result of civil society leadership and action; 2) that protracted transition and lingering legacies of authoritarian rule have posed intractable obstacles to further democratization; and 3) that the persistence of mobilizational politics by civil society actors poses a threat to democratic consolidation. Reexamination of these theses reveals the extent to which the scholarship has been trapped in a static framework, as well as the need to move toward new frameworks that can better capture the molecular processes that define the world of contentious politics.
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