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The New Asian City

Three-Dimensional Fictions of Space and Urban Form

Jini Kim Watson

Publication Year: 2011

Under Jini Kim Watson’s scrutiny, the Asian Tiger metropolises of Seoul, Taipei, and Singapore reveal a surprising residue of the colonial environment. Drawing on a wide array of literary, filmic, and political works, and juxtaposing close readings of the built environment, Watson demonstrates how processes of migration and construction in the hypergrowth urbanscapes of the Pacific Rim crystallize the psychic and political dramas of their colonized past and globalized present.

Examining how newly constructed spaces—including expressways, high-rises, factory zones, department stores, and government buildings—become figured within fictional and political texts uncovers how massive transformations of citizenries and cities were rationalized, perceived, and fictionalized. Watson shows how literature, film, and poetry have described and challenged contemporary Asian metropolises, especially around the formation of gendered and laboring subjects in these new spaces. She suggests that by embracing the postwar growth-at-any-cost imperative, they have buttressed the nationalist enterprise along neocolonial lines.

The New Asian City
provides an innovative approach to how we might better understand the gleaming metropolises of the Pacific Rim. In doing so, it demonstrates how reading cultural production in conjunction with built environments can enrich our knowledge of the lived consequences of rapid economic and urban development.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. ix-x

Note on Romanization

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p. xi-xi

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Introduction: The Production of Space in Singapore, Seoul, and Taipei

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pp. 1-23

With the recent industrial rise of China and India, the postwar success of the so-called Asian Tiger economies seems to have blurred into the more general pattern of industrializing Asia. It is easy to forget, then, that an earlier generation of booming metropolises—including Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei—were not always such gleaming beacons of ...

PART I: Colonial Cities

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1. Imagining the Colonial City

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pp. 27-51

Where does one begin a spatial history of a city? Although Seoul, Taipei, and Singapore have had varying careers as major urban settlements, this chapter is devoted to excavating their spatial developments under colonial rule. If the Introduction posed the question of how a postcolonial country attempts to develop from a subordinate position, how exactly is that ...

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2. Orphans of Asia: Modernity and Colonial Literature

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pp. 53-85

In Yŏm Sang-sŏp’s 1924 novel Mansejŏn (Before the March 1st Movement)1— arguably the most complete representation of colonial Korea (or Chosŏn, as it was then known)—narrator Yi In-hwa is called back from his studies in Japan by his wife’s serious illness. With little actual concern for his wife, he recounts his train trip south from Tokyo, the ferry ride to Pusan, and ...

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TRANSITION: Export Production and the Blank Slate

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pp. 87-96

Part 1, “Colonial Cities,” showed us how colonial urbanism was important both for the production and maintenance of the imperial system and for perceiving and unmasking its contradictions. The remaining two sections of the book deal with the postwar period, especially the mid-1960s to mid-1980s, the period of intense industrialization and urbanization of the ...

PART II: Postwar Urbanism

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3. Narratives of Human Growth versus Urban Renewal

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pp. 99-131

In related but distinct ways, expanding Seoul, Singapore, and Taiwan of the 1960s and 1970s share an urban aesthetic that owes much to the logic of the export-oriented production that fueled their economies. To examine this aesthetic, I use two conceptual frames that deal with urban and literary transformation, respectively. First, I address the question of dimensionality ...

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4. The Disappearing Woman, Interiority, and Private Space

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pp. 133-166

In Kang Sŏk-kyŏng’s 1985 novella “A Room in the Woods” (“Supsok ŭiPang”), soon-to-be-married Mi-yang attempts to break through the apparent wall that encases her younger sister, So-yang. Written in the thick ofSouth Korea’s democratizing movement, which challenged military rule in 1987, it may be read as the tragic story of So-yang, whose failure “to find...

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TRANSITION: Roads, Railways, and Bridges: Arteries of the Nation

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pp. 167-176

As the last section has shown, the rise of the much-applauded Asia Pacific miracle economies cannot be understood without acknowledging the ways they reorganized their productive systems through urbanization and the effects this had on laboring and gendered subjectivities. Moving away from the question of individual reconciliation with the spatial logic of tabula ...

PART III: Industrializing Landscapes

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5. The Way Ahead: The Politics and Poetics of Singapore’s Developmental Landscape

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pp. 179-202

IIn January 1964, senior minister Lee Kuan Yew undertook a whirlwind tour of independent African states in order to win support for his new country, Malaysia, which had incorporated Singapore, Sabah (British North Borneo), and Sarawak into the Federation of Malaya in 1963. In this period of emerging postcolonial statehood, recognition of Malaysia by African ...

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6. Mobility and Migration in Taiwanese New Cinema

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pp. 203-226

Expressions of statist modernization ideology in Kuomintang (KMT)- controlled Taiwan parallel much of what we have seen in Singapore. However, the comparison to Lee Kuan Yew is complicated by the fact that Chiang Kai-shek’s speeches and writings were almost entirely negative in focus: Edwin Winckler writes that the KMT’s “main positive state cultural ...

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7. The Redemptive Realism of Korean Minjung Literature

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pp. 227-250

The growth of transport systems and the allure of movement is a powerful metaphor for several reasons, not least being the actual reduction in a nation’s size. All three New Asian City nations, in fact, became unwilling islands between 1949 and 1965. Under the Kuomintang, Taiwan was contentiously severed (again) from the mainland, provoking to this day ...

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CONCLUSION: Too Late, Too Soon: Globalization and New Asian Cities

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pp. 251-256

The year 1987 saw the first democratic elections in South Korea, paving the way for the election of the first civilian president Kim Young-Sam in 1993. In Taiwan, the island’s first nonmainlander leader, Lee Teng-hui, was elected president in 1988, a year after the end of nearly forty years of martial law, and in 2003 the first non-Kuomintang leader, Chen Shui-bian, was ...

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pp. 257-258

It is a pleasure to thank the many people and institutions that have made this book possible. The original research and first version was written while at Duke University, and I am deeply indebted to the fine teaching and intellectual environment of the graduate program in literature. My tireless dissertation director, Ranjana Khanna, introduced me to the rigors of ...


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pp. 258-275


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pp. 277-291


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pp. 293-311

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About the Author

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p. 313-313

Jini Kim Watson is assistant professor of English and comparative...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816678792
E-ISBN-10: 0816678790
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816675739

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2011