20 Years After

An issue of: positions

20 Years After
Journal Issue Pages: 432 Volume 20, Number 1 Published: Winter 2012 An issue of positions
Special Issue Editor: Tani Barlow
To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of positions, this special issue grapples with the journal’s origins in the critique of Cold War area studies and its ongoing role in providing openings for theoretically engaged scholarship. Essays, interviews, and visual art allow contributors to explore how positions has encouraged alternative analytical modes for the study of politics, engaged literary theory, queer theory, and economic, religious, and artistic cultures through the lens of Asia. The issue speculates on how future scholarship will negotiate the transformations wrought by the declining hegemony of US-dominated Asian studies in the academic world. Consistent with the journal’s core mission, the issue combines current assessments of broad scholarly disciplines, such as Marxism, cultural studies, and queer studies, with illustrative case studies on topics ranging from Korean real estate markets to the border-crossing experiences of migrant laborers to early twentieth-century advertising in China. A collection of contemporary Asian visual art presented throughout the issue offers a challenge and testament to the political and interpretive scope of positions’ past and future.

Contributors: Tani E. Barlow, Tina Mai Chen, Harry Harootunian, Rebecca Karl, Thomas LaMarre, Boreth Ly, Rosalind C. Morris, Claudia Pozzana, Christophe Robert, Lisa Rofel, Alessandro Russo, Naoki Sakai, Jesook Song, Norman A. Spencer, Rolando B. Tolentino, Wang Hui, Angela Zito

Tani E. Barlow is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Asian History and the Director of the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University. She is the author of The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism and New Asian Marxisms, both also published by Duke University Press.

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Editor's Introduction

Barlow, T.

Issue 20.1 introduces changes in the positions project which widen the "Asia" or "Asias" that contributors can expect to reference in their work. The journal's name change from positions: east asia cultures critique to positions: asia critique signals several changes. The cultures signifier fades into the intellectual history of an earlier time; the word critique remains. Walter Benjamin's proposal that critique be the mark of the immanent yet apocalyptic claim to historical truth cannot be vacated. Thus twenty years after the founding of the project, we pause to invent an appropriate anniversary issue for renewing this journal. Essays consequently focus on the maturation of lines of research and on what, in light of the passage of a full generation of scholarship, might be issues just arising on the historical horizon. The first set of essays introduces the reader to the ideological and intellectual conditions that laid the foundation for the critiques during the journal's founding years. The second section of the anniversary issue indicates some viable directions for future scholarship, and the third section includes interviews, commemorations, and commentaries. This anniversary issue showcases a wide range of contemporary art of "Asia."

"Memories of Underdevelopment" after Area Studies

Harootunian, H.

The purpose of this article is to examine how the construction of a desire called area studies was founded on the privilege accorded to fixed spatial units such as the geographical area, culture region, and the directional localities west, east, south, and so forth. The model for such spatial regularities has been the nation-state form, itself a predominantly spatial figure, and its capacity for modernizing transformation leading to the establishment of modern rationalities such as the liberal democratic polity, capital accumulation, and the self-regulating market, which would constitute the sign of an unchanging modern structure. Even in the transmutation of area studies into identity studies, based on permanent ethnocultural determinations, the privilege of the spatial dominant still persists and prevails, announcing what appears as the "end of temporality." In its place I offer the possibility of a "containment strategy" constituted of specific space/time relationships, recalling what M. M. Bakhtin named as "chronotope," which restores time to any consideration of space and allows for the identification of changing conjunctural configurations prompted by momentary contingencies.

Populist Politics in Asian Networks: Positions for Rethinking the Question of Political Subjectivity

Morris, R. C.

This article examines the history of populist politics in Asia, and particularly in Thailand, in relation to two major developments: the rise of culturalism on the one hand, and the emergence of technologically mediated forms of protest politics on the other. Against a backdrop in which culturalism came to displace the more agonistic framework of class analysis, the essay explores transformations in the concept of political subjectivity, and the degree to which theatricalized expressions of discontent came to stand in for other kinds of politicization. I suggest that this mediatized drive to expression is borne of a desire for recognition within a distorted concept of the public sphere, and I argue further that the terms by which an escape from subalternity is being pursued in the contemporary world are no longer only those of "being heard" or "having a voice," but of being "seen to speak

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ISBN Paperback: 978-0-8223-6765-9
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