Summer Institute for East Asian Studies

June 2-4, 2021

Media and Mediation in East Asia: Assemblages and Global Flows

Media in all of its various manifestations—old and new, print and virtual, film and video, analog and digital, recorded and streamed, journalistic, artistic, “Youkued” “Weiboed” and “WeChatified”—defines the cutting edge of new and emergent cultural forms in Asia. This is most certainly true of the present, but it is also characteristic of the past, and of the way in which histories of different periods, encompassing different regions, can be understood in relation to emergent forms of media and mediated knowledge, however dry, stable, and anachronistic letters, edicts, manuscripts, and archives may deceptively appear to be. Similarly, the fluid nature of mediated communication and the production of knowledge by means of various media strain against the boundedness of modern nations in ways that are dramatically new but nevertheless echo communication along trade routes connecting polities and publics in the pre-modern world as well as in the context of colonial empires. In many ways, therefore, media and mediation in Asia challenge the natural integrity of area studies in general, as well as the discrete delineation of East Asian nation states and polities such as China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Hong Kong even though these political entities are more or less stable fixtures on the geopolitical landscape.

Media is also inherently creative and transformative, a factor that often generates tension and conflict as corporate and state entities try to control the flow of information, restrict its use in various forms, and profit from its control and distribution. Because of its transformative power, media is inherently political, both in obvious ways —as in propaganda, advertising, and censorship—but also in ways that complicate and destabilize simplistic, two-dimensional conceptualizations of coercive power and authority.  The very nature of mediated information entails assemblage, connecting old and new, individuals and groups, utilitarian, commercialized, and creative domains in ways that are unexpected and productively destabilizing, thus generating insight, commentary, and critique.  While inherently communicative, media also opens up a space for performative reflexivity, and the dynamic synergy of social media as a public medium for personal reflection produces forms of cultural expression that define subjects and new articulations of subject positionality in contemporary Asia.

There is no better time to investigate the modalities of media and mediation in contemporary academia, when the pandemic restricts many physical activities and population flows. Building on the successful model of previous years, The Asian Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh invites three senior scholars to join eight early career scholars to participate in a summer institute designed to generate publications in leading journals. The scholars will have expertise in the study of East Asia, however broadly that is defined. The summer institute is interdisciplinary, bringing together scholars whose intellectual orientation is defined by the way in which area studies is inherently global, and the way in which the study of Asia affords a unique opportunity to crystalize analytical perspectives and produce theoretical and methodological interventions to distinguish Asian modernity from other forms of globalization.

We invite junior scholars to submit proposals in a broad range of topics, including yet not limited to:

  • Translation, adaptation, and remediation in East Asian media culture;
  • Viral media and epidemiological imaginaries in the social construction of virus, smog, and biosecurity;
  • E-commerce, Internet celebrity, and libidinal economy;
  • Intermediality and geopolitics in East Asia

To apply, view the call for proposals here.