Fall 2002 Speaker Series

Time: 12 pm
Place: East-West Center, Burns 2118

Wed. Sept. 4th
Gaye Chan
UH Manoa

“Historic Waikiki”: A Concrete Metaphor for the Effects of ColonialistCapitalism

‘Historic Waikiki,’ a series of four souvenirs available in local bookstores, packages pieces of Waikiki's cement jungle with little-known history about the transformation of Waikiki from sacred Hawaiian sites to today's international tourist destination Each edition begs a different question of Hawai‘i visitors and settlers with the intent to get their attention and ultimately perpetuate respect for and appreciation of Waikiki.

'Historic Waikiki' was created by DownWind Productions--Gaye Chan teaches in the UHM Department of Art. Chan is an artist who has had solo exhibitions in Honolulu, New York, Osaka, Sydney, and Montreal. She was recently awarded a “Top 5 Winner” prize from the Honolulu Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Design.

Wed. Sept. 18th
Decha Tangseefa
Political Science
UH Manoa

Flight to/through 'the door': Karen Naked Lives & the In-between Spaces of Thailand and Burma

Experiences inside Burma/Myanmar have been harrowing. Like many lives under fire elsewhere, the hardships of the Burmese dictatorship have not been widely seen and thus, imperceptible and unaccounted for by the world community. Conservative figures show that 600,000 to 1,000,000 people have been forcibly displaced. Many of these peoples have taken flight across and through doorways along state boundaries. One such peoples is the indigenous nation of Karens who have lived in and along the Thai-Burmese border zone long before the birth of these two nation-states.
This presentation will evince how the displaced Karens have been transforming tragic memories and experiences into strategies for survival. Moreover, the case of the Karens highlights the connection between “border culture” and the culture of state terror. This talk is inspired by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s treatment of the nexus between sovereign power and human life as exemplified in Franz Kafka’s legendary parable: “Before the Law,” or “The Doorkeeper.” For Agamben, under sovereign power, humans are naked. Yet, some naked lives are perceptible while others are not. This talk will deploy and extend the parable so as to articulate the displaced Karens’ flight to/through “the door.” It will use audiovisual media to narrate the quotidian facts of the Karens imperceptible and “naked” daily life and juxtapose Karens lives in war zones and camps with other lives living in and along the border.

* Fri. Sept. 27th
Ien Ang
Cultural Studies
University of Western Sydney
Beyond Identity: Cross-cultural Communication in a Fundamentalist World

Wed. Oct. 16th
Vrinda Dalmiya
UH Manoa

Knowing Godesses, Mothering Nature

Goddess iconography has often been interpreted as symbolic appropriations of birth which are then mobilized to solidify both patriarchal gender roles and communal identities. In this presentation I explore how spiritual narratives associated with a goddess, even though never innocent of all other structures of social power, can suggest interesting possibilities for a deployment that might be more positive for ordinary women and men. By analyzing a particular goddess (Kali) as the intentional object of worship for a particular devotee (Ramprasad Sen, 18th century Bengali poet), I argue that a female divinity need not always herald an essentialised, biological mother-power nor gesture towards a romanticized oneness with nature. Rather, the devotional nexus can be (re)read as indicating an engaged self-in-relation as well as a localised and embedded epistemic subject. The ‘play’ of this goddess and her devotee could well be a rethinking of cognition along the lines suggested by some contemporary feminist epistemologists. I attempt to open up possibilities for a politics of spirituality which positions the latter as disrupting both spirit/matter and spirituality/rationality dualisms. Framed in that way, a goddess could come to signify a fracturing of frozen identities by gesturing towards a more mobile notion of a knower.

Wed. Oct. 30th
Markus Wessondorf
UH Manoa
Some Observations on the Impact of Globalization on the Performing Arts

Starting with a critical reading of Michael Kustow’s recent essay on “Cross-border Theatre in a Globalized World” (AMERICAN THEATRE May/June 2002), my presentation will mainly focus upon the different, often multidirectional and contradictory effects of globalization on the Performing Arts. I will examine how aspects of globalization such as delocalization, mediation and commodification have affected the traditional understanding of theatre performance not only as the most evanescent art form but also the one most closely tied to a specific location. I will look at different theatrical strategies of appropriating progressive features of globalization (connectivity) while subverting negative ones (the multi-national market’s tendency towards uniformity).

Wed. Nov. 13th
S. Shankar
UH Manoa
Representations of the Poor in Contemporary Literature and Film in India

In DEEWAR, the 1975 Bollywood Hindi film, Amitabh Bachchan plays the eldest son of an impoverished single mother who is driven to become an underworld don. In Komal Swaminathan's 1980 Tamil play THANEER, THANEER (WATER!), the peasants of the drought stricken village of Athipatti take matters into their own hands as the postcolonial bureaucracy begins to fail them. In Rohinton Mistry's 1996 novel A FINE BALANCE, three men and one woman (two Parsi and middle class and two Dalit and poor) share an apartment in an unnamed city very like Bombay during the mid Seventies (during the period of the Emergency).
This presentation will focus on the representation of the poor and poverty in these three works from and on the Seventies, a key decade in India when arguably a postcolonial political and social dispensation was coming to crisis. The crisis of the Seventies had many facets but one was within a postcolonial developmentalist discourse of poverty alleviation. Pointing out the variety in the representations of the poor in the three works, the presentation will focus on the question of agency in this context-how does each work evaluate the poor as agents? The question is posed out of the conviction that representations of the poor are crucially invested in the exploration of their agency. It is through this exploration that such representations articulate the place of the poor within their social imaginary.

Wed. Nov. 27th
Fred Lau
UH Manoa

Nationalizing Sound on the Verge of Chinese Modernity

Modern China is constructed on two major historic events: the end of the dynastic system in 1911 and the New Culture Movement in the 1920s. Both have been defining moments in the birth of the modern Chinese nation-state. The New Culture Movement, also known as the May-Fourth Movement, ushered in an era in which many Chinese intellectuals condemned traditional Chinese culture as backward and stagnant, and valorized Western ideas and values as the main force behind the creation of an enlightened new nation. The production of new cultural movements and literary forms is generally viewed as an unqualified acceptance of Western ideals. This Western-based vision of modernity polarized the perceived difference between tradition and what it means to be new and modern, yet it also created an opportunity for many to actualize alternative visions of modernity and nationhood.
This paper explores how modernity was envisioned and produced against the privileging of Western knowledge as the sole source of Chinese modernity after the May-Fourth Movement. In particular, I investigate how this historic ideological shift played out in the field of music. I examine the notion of guoyue (national music) as seen from the viewpoints of musicians of the time and the ways this genre was being created and presented. By focusing on the writings and musical innovations of Shanghai-based musician Zheng Zhiwen, I argue that alternative ways of establishing a modernized music were realized by restructuring traditional repertory and performing practices. By juxtaposing Zheng's vision with a handful of regional music publications labelled as national music, I demonstrate the ambiguity of the term guoyue and its entanglement with the idea of nationalism and modernity. These musical productions contradict the notion of modernity as a radical break with tradition and suggest both continuity and fusion.

Wed. Dec. 11th
Paul Schroeder
UH Manoa

Migrants and Lovers: Transculturation in "Flowers from Another World"

The theoretical model of transculturation, while not new, has never been elaborated or used the way I do in this presentation. Moreover, because this approach focuses on human cultural dynamics, its potential to reinvigorate cultural studies is enormous: like feminism in the 1970s and post-colonialism in the 1980s and 1990s, transculturation is only now beginning its travels beyond the realm of specialists (in this case, Latin Americanists), and out into the wider world of interdisciplinary debates. My hope is that this presentation will help popularize the theory of transculturation, by explaining to an audience of Latin Americanists and non-Latin Americanists alike the origins, outlines and (through an analysis of ‘FLOWERS FROM ANOTHER WORLD’) the potential uses of this paradigm-altering model of culture.

* Special evening presentation: T.B.A.