- Editor’s Introduction
Three essays in this general issue, Ignacio Adriasola’s “Megalopolis and Wasteland: Peripheral Geographies of Tokyo (1961/1971),” Peter Tillack’s “Concrete Abstractions: Gotô Meisei’s Hapless Danchi Dwellers and Japan’s Economic Miracle,” and Vladimir Tikhonov’s “The Images of Russia and Russians in Colonial-Era Korean Literature: The 1930s,” present dystopic, even catastrophic scenarios that have in common the absence of Manichean distinctions, clear colors, or even legible boundaries.
Adriasola deliberates on Hosoe Eikoh’s Private Landscape series and Tange Kenzō’s 1960 master plan for Tokyo, “Tokyo Megalopolis,” to elicit appreciation for the spatialization of a disaster. What the author calls the threat of extinction underlines “Tange’s disavowal and Hosoe’s incorporation of the urban periphery” and the literal procedures they adopt to produce alternate landscapes. The reason to place these works side by side is that together they form a dissonant yet similar haunted production of landscape. Very simply, Adriasola notes, Hosoe and Tange’s “contiguity is [End Page 197] phantasmatic and physical, because the shared anxiety that is made visible in their descriptions of space is also contingent on their historic and material specificity.” Thus the essay weaves together political protests and cerebral debates, the metabolism architectural movement and nation-directed capital investment, city planning and the ghosts of imperial Tokyo inherited in the desperate immediate post-Pacific War decade and the biomechanical dream of a city composed of an embryonic spine feathering out into a communications mecca, where “hauntological” presences, or what Adriasola calls a toponymical presence built on a haunted landscape of the returning.
Tillack’s “Concrete Abstractions: Gotô Meisei’s Hapless Danchi Dwellers and Japan’s Economic Miracle,” focuses differently on a similarly miraculous period, the reconstruction of Tokyo and the violence of the production of abstract space. The obliteration of vernacular space in the horrific abstraction of value out of real-estate development following the mobilization of labor into Tokyo creates “productivism” (seisansei), the affect Tillak pursues in close analysis of Gotô Meisei’s 1970 dystopic story “Who’s There?” Tillak overwhelmingly marshals the practical, historical detail that went into the planning and construction of the grotesquely huge and brutal housing estates where Tokyoites lived as their labor was extracted from them. In the section “The Danchi as a Spatial Dimension of Seisansei,” Tillack shows how exploitative physical conditions painfully shape subjectivity. And in much of the rest of the essay, the dailiness of danchi living as Gotô demonstrated is carefully described. If Adriasola shows a forced march into the communication city, Tillack’s analysis of Gotô’s danchi dwellers positions critical readers in its painful physicality.
Tikhonov’s contribution is just as visceral. In his “Images of Russia and Russians in Colonial-Era Korean Literature: The 1930s,” vast and frigid borderlands are barely able to distinguish colonized Korea from colonized “Manchuria” and the bitter poverty of Russian Soviet Union. Laying out a harsh geographic map, Tikhonov introduces readers to a lesser known stream of Korean-language prose literature that focuses on the fun-house mirrors of Korean selves in relation to the Russian Revolution, the skewed racial dynamic of an Oriental country with a white underclass, eroticized Bolshevik white women, Asian-appearing Caucasian wives who marry manly Korean men, and a snakes-and-ladders reality in which wealthy Russians [End Page 198] play at spas, nakedly, like white animals in one moment only to sink into sorrowful beggardom in the next. The catastrophic language of the fiction and travelogues Tikhonov describes forms a hall of mirrors where bourgeois Korean colonial subjects engage in literary dalliances with white strippers in the great phantasmagorical city of Harbin. In this essay everyone is trapped.
In one sense, John Treat’s “The Rise and Fall of Homonationalism in Singapore” continues a wholly coincidental focus on politics of space. As savage in its political realism as the previous essays, yet, as a semiautobiographical presentation, wrenchingly caustic, the essay veers from what Treat terms a “long-standing Western penchant for discovering gay enclaves in Sir Richard Francis Burton’s hot ‘Sotadic Zone’ stretching from southern Italy to Polynesia” to detailed enumeration of pinkwashing that invites players to party...