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The Transpacific Metropolis

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Organizer: Kevin Vennemann

Co-Organizer: Stefan Keppler-Tasaki

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Prof. Dr. Stefan Keppler-Tasaki, The University of Tokyo, Japan

Kevin Vennemann, Ph.D., Scripps College, Claremont, CA


The Transpacific Metropolis


The metropolis, a space as stimulating as it is overwhelming, is constitutive for the origin and development of modernist literature and of film. From Whitman's Manhattan to Zola's Paris to Vertov's Moscow, Kiev and Odessa, the metropolis presented itself as a display of globalization: through international architecture, ethnic diversity, and multilingualism, but also through a high demand for globalized entertainment and commodities. The metropolises of the Pacific Ring of Fire first entered this discourse under comparative terms such as “Paris of the West” (for San Francisco), “New York of the East” (for Tokyo), and “Chicago of the East” (for Shanghai) before they developed a more independent, transpacific profile, particularly through their entangled history and shared conditions at the Pacific.

Transpacific metropolises such as Vancouver, Valparaíso, Sydney, Taipei, Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo share the near-constant fear of earthquakes and tsunamis. They all are defined by the cultural, economic, and migratory exchange across the Pacific, and they are connected and divided by the memories of American expansionism, Japanese imperialism, and the Pacific War. Finally, they share a significant contribution to the idea and image of the global metropolis at large during the last few decades. While classics such as Zhang Henshui’s Shanghai Express (1935), W. S. Van Dyke’s San Francisco (1936), and Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Valparaíso” (1954) continue to unfold their significance, a vast literary and cinematographic production on transpacific metropolises has emerged since the 1990s, e.g. Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune (1999), Lee Chang-dong’s Oasis (2002), Haruki Murakami’s After Dark (2004), Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs (2007), and Tao Lin's Taipei (2013).

We welcome proposals, in a variety of formats, on cinematic, literary, theoretical and/or artistic interactions with any one or several of the many Pacific metropolises from Chile to Canada, from Japan to New Zealand. How has the Pacific metropolis been staged over the last century (and especially over the last two decades) as a space that is both to blame for as well as victim to colonial aggression and post-colonial power and identity vacuums? How do these representations of the Pacific metropolis mirror current and past debates in areas such as architecture and urban development; gender, labor, migration, and race politics; cultural and diplomatic exchange; environmentalism and global warming? Finally, what future visions or alternate histories do these representations propose, if any, for a global metropolis entering an age of increasing urbanization and, simultaneously, wide-spread political and environmental instability?

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