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Arnika Fuhrmann – In the Mood for Texture: Bangkok as a Chinese City

October 28, 2020 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Speaker: Arnika Fuhrmann, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University.

What does it mean to imagine “Asia” beyond the reductive visions of contemporary policy? This project explores the contemporary visual culture of Chinese pasts and colonial modernities, revived across the cinemas, new media, hospitality venues, and other material sites of East and Southeast Asia. Examining the doubling of Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Shanghai across these sites, it investigates how a transregional Chinese modernity that emerged under, but always exceeded, conditions of colonial and national governance informs the present. As film directors such as Wong Kar-wai and hotels, bars, and clubs revive 1930s Shanghai and 1960s Hong Kong modernities—and exploit the Chinese past of Bangkok’s old European trading quarters—this redeployment of (semi-)colonial histories and Chinese urban pasts is emerging as a primary signifier of the good life and understandings of Asia in the present. The deployment of this twentieth century translocal Chinese modernity points to enduring regional imaginaries that diverge from global notions of “China Rising,” the People’s Republic’s own Belt and Road Initiative, or the policies of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations. Bangkok—as a Chinese city—stands at the center of these prominent, transregional revivals in which media and urban design projects speak of radically different desires than those of current policy.

Arnika Fuhrmann is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University. Her work on contexts in Southeast Asia is informed by affect, gender, urban and media theory. Her book Ghostly Desires: Queer Sexuality and Vernacular Buddhism in Contemporary Thai Cinema (Duke University Press, 2016) examines how Buddhist-coded anachronisms of haunting figure struggles over sexuality, personhood, and notions of collectivity in contemporary Thai cinema and political rhetoric. She is currently working on a project called Digital Futures: South/east Asian Media Temporalities and the Expansion of the Sphere of Politics.

The talk is part of the ongoing East Asian Media Ecologies lecture series. Following a ten-minute presentation by Professor Fuhrmann are an extended conversation with the moderators and a Q&A with the attendees. 

A zoom link will be posted closer to the event.


October 28, 2020
10:00 am - 11:00 am
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