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Panel 1: Inbetween Spaces and Instruments of Change

(Saturday 10:10 AM – 12 PM)

 

“Open Corner: Residual Space as Source of Public Engagement in Hong Kong,” Sirui Chen, University of Pennsylvania

Hong Kong is a high-density city where urban morphology is largely result from regulatory requirements. However, within the strictly controlled building forms, an intermediate zone exists – this layer of spatial residual mediates between city’s circulation system and clearly defined building programs, blurring the boundary between public and private, interior and exterior. The essay would argue that such theme of residual space could be traced through the evolution of Hong Kong’s urban forms – from early colonial era’s shophouse to current day ubiquitous Podium and Tower typology – and has continued to play an important part in shaping the city’s unique public realm. Specifically, three conditions would be examined in detail: market street in Yau Ma Tei, elevated pedestrian pass way in Mong Kok, and Podium connections in Sha Tin town center. By understanding how residual space adapts to various spatial attributes and users’ demands, the research seeks to identify such prototype as source of urban resilience, and discuss its potential relevant to today’s urban situation – Could residual space function as buffer zone for city in social upheaval? Could residual space reintroduce vigorous public life into the increasingly stratified super-podium in New Towns? Is residual space as a form of public domain also applicable to mall-city style urban models in cities of mainland China?

Key words: residual space, public space, informal addition, high density

 

 

“Sustainable Mobility: The Infrastructure and Aesthetics of Planned Urban Shrinkage in Japan,” Shoko Yamada, Yale University

Japan’s recent economic, demographic, and environmental precarities have raised governmental concerns about urban sustainability broadly conceived. In addition to the environmental consideration of cities as a site of heavy carbon footprints, the Japanese state increasingly views the lowered population density in cities amid the nation’s demographic decline as a major threat to the fiscal sustainability of essential urban functions such as medical care, social welfare, and commerce. To tackle this risk, the state has taken on a planned urban shrinkage project over the past decade. Under the slogan of building “compact cities,” this initiative aims to maintain urban vitality by strategically relocating and concentrating financial, material, and human resources in designated urban centers, while largely divesting from suburbs. This paper examines how this urban sustainability project has taken up particular modes of transport and mobility as both an intermediary for asserting an aesthetics of urban vibrancy and an instrument for materializing it. Specifically, the initiative envisions and promotes a form of urban spatial mobility that privileges downtown walkability and accessibility through public transportation over the suburban lifestyle seen as dependent upon automobiles. Using the case of the City of Toyama, I suggest that this emergent infrastructure of sustainable mobility posits and produces an active and wholesome subjectivity of the city’s future inhabitants in a way that withdraws the state accountability on urban sustainability. The project’s such normative aesthetics raises broader questions about what and whose urbanity gets sustained in the name of urban sustainability.

 

 

Subterranean Topographies: Rural Proletarian Literature on Mining in the Japanese Empire,” Vanessa Baker, University of California, Irvine

This paper, entitled “Subterranean Topographies: Rural Proletarian Literature on Mining in the Japanese Empire” traces the role of what I call aural topography as a means to navigate the underground spaces where miners dug for minerals including coal, copper, tungsten, and gold in the Japanese empire. I argue that miners develop a heightened reliance upon aural cues as a means to navigate a subterranean environment in pursuit of a rich vein of ore. As depicted in 1930s rural proletarian literature on mining, sounds both function to protect the laborers of impending collapses or explosions, but they can also be a means to distract from supervisors’ violent attacks on the laborers, particularly the female carriers. In this paper I discuss the so-called mining literature of Kim Yujŏng, Matsuda Tokiko, Itô Einosuke, and Hyŏn Kyŏngjun. Each author engages with how the proto-industrial development of mining affected the everyday rhythms of labor on the Korean peninsula, in Kangwŏn and Hamgyŏng provinces, as well as on the Japanese archipelago, specifically Akita prefecture. The reverberations of sound in this literature helps to sculpt the physical space of the mountains and valleys where these miners lived. Attention to the local geography in mining literature brings the ecological relationships to the forefront. Following the aural topography of mining proletarian literature reveals the changes in everyday patterns of labor, gendered divisions of labor, as well the effects on the environment and the physical condition of laborers as a result of mining for the empire.

 

 

“The Political Economy of “Yitiao”: Lifestyle Media as the Instrument to Depoliticize Social Polarization in Contemporary China,” Dijia Chen, University of Virginia

In this paper, I investigate the emerging forms of lifestyle media in contemporary China that depoliticizes existing class struggles and social polarization through the aestheticization and stylization of every life. Exemplifying a small lifestyle media corporation “Yitiao”, I unpack the power dynamics and social relations of lifestyle media in a Party-regulated, market-oriented media system in China through the analysis of its astonishingly rapid market success, and unravel the hidden political and ideological intentions purporting the leisure industries and consumer culture as a whole. I start with a general introduction to the media system in China, emphasizing the specificities that characterize the role of “media” in an ideologically unified yet economically quasi-neoliberal China. I then analyze the elitist social relations, the emerging market necessities and the party-authoritarian support that facilitated the rapid success of “Yitiao” during its first several years. Finally, appropriating theories on the aestheticization of everyday life from Baudrillard and Featherstone in a China-specific context, I problematize the flooding of lifestyle media in China as an instrument to depoliticize social divisions and class struggle into issues of living aesthetics and visual pleasure. By comparing China’s circumstances with its western counterpart, I further posit the issue of aestheticization in China as a severer factor that blinds the general public to social struggles due to censorship and other forms of ideological manipulation.

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