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Thing  

Woosung Kang

Thing is a categorically indeterminate and comprehensive concept that cannot easily be pinned down to any single or specific meaning. It has a long history of heterogeneous significations, from material objects, through legal issues, to supersensible noumena. For modern philosophies of subjectivity, things are reducible to that which is available for human thinking and acting. Things are represented as objects for the subject in the form of presence-at-hand, and this representational relationship forms the basic structure of the world in modernity. Under the capitalist system of commodity exchanges, moreover, this anthropocentric relationship with things undergoes what is called reification or fetishism, which turns all things human into relations between objects. The objectification of things makes it possible for humans to dominate the world, but fetishism in turn dominates human beings as mere objects. Heidegger’s attempt to deconstruct this objectification reverberates with the Marxist critique of capitalist commodification, and in literature, with the modernist endeavor to overcome reification. These efforts to secure the thingness of the thing are linked to the early 21st century’s efforts to re-establish non-humanistic relations with things and the world. Recently, under the banner of an “ontological turn,” there has been an explosion of interest in things, motivated in particular by growing concerns about anthropocentrism. Indeed, in the face of unprecedented technological change and hyper-digitalization, a new relation between human and nonhuman is desperately required. New ontologies thus try to build a non-hierarchal, object-oriented, monistic universe of hybrids, quasi-objects, and assemblages, such that human beings become only a part of the parliament of things.

Article

Modern Japanese literature emerged as Japan asserted itself as a military-industrial power from the end of the 19th through the early 20th centuries. The subject of modern literature was worthy of a seat at the table of the world’s powers, or so goes the story of a literary canon all too often focused on the legitimacy of elites. But modern literature is not only about a male alienated intellectual failing to have a satisfying relationship. During the international “red decade” (1925–1935), proletarian writers in Japan as elsewhere sought to harness and transform the technology of modern literature in order to represent the hitherto un- or underrepresented women and men, peasants and factory workers, elderly and children in order to bring the masses into consciousness of their collective power. For a decade, nearly every writer in Japan engaged the energetic but often divided proletarian movement as they sought to grasp the challenges of a rapidly modernizing society, transformation in the family and gender, dual economy, worldwide depression, and escalating imperialism. Largely overlooked during the Cold War, this important decade of modern literature has experienced a well-deserved scholarly and popular revival in a period of 21st-century precarity, protests against privilege, and questioning of media and representation. Two exemplars from proletarian literature—Hayama Yoshiki’s “The Prostitute” (1925) and Miyamoto Yuriko’s “The Breast” (1935)—offer a frame to apprehend the richness of genre, voice, storytelling, experimentation, and ethics in proletarian literature, a vital part of modern literature.

Article

Contemporary Asian American art includes artworks created by artists of Asian heritage in the Americas as well as contemporary works that engage with Asian American or Asian diasporic communities, history, aesthetics, politics, theory, and popular culture. This includes Modern and Postmodern works created in the post-World War II era to the present. Asian American art is closely tied to the birth of the Asian American movement of the 1960s and 70s as well as a wide range of art movements of the same time period from minimalism, to community murals, to the birth of video art, to international conceptual movements such as Fluxus. “Asian American art” is associated with identity based works and began to be institutionalized during the multicultural era of the 1980–1990s. From the early 2000s onwards, Asian American art has shifted to more transnational framework but remains centered on issues of representation, recovery, reclaiming, recuperation, and decolonization of marginalized bodies, histories, and memories. Common themes in Asian American art include narratives of immigration, migration, war, trauma, labor, race and ethnicity, assimilation, dislocation, countering stereotypes, and interrogating histories of colonization and U.S. imperialism.