Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Transnational Panels at AAS, Seattle 2016

I remain fascinated by the transnational as a theoretical framework. The organic ways in which this approach can take into account border crossings, while recording the unequal power exchange that might occur when bodies, ideas, and products move across national and other boundaries, seems to ensure that the transnational remains a relevant approach in multiple disciplines today.

However at times, when the “transnational” is used, the theoretical framework of the term is assumed rather than explained. In addition, the connections and differences between transnational studies and global creative industry studies are not always clearly delineated.

Regardless, it was a global creative industries panel that I found used a transnational approach most comprehensively; namely, the “The Rise and Fall of the Anime Boom in the US: Lessons for Global Creative Industries” panel which was interdisciplinary, well-organized, and collaborative. It was also probably my favorite of the Association for Asian Studies conference this year. Featuring commerce data, theory, and authoritative sources including numerous interviews, I was most inspired during the presentations by Nissim Otmazgin’s conclusion that one simultaneously locates deterritorialization (cross-continental mixture) and reterritorialization (distinct national characteristics) when analyzing anime as both creative content and commodity. The dialectic here is one that includes nuances and complex valences. In the process of uncovering these various dynamics, interestingly one still finds aspects of the center-periphery model firmly in place (a supporting comment along these lines can be located on my blog here).

Panels that addressed the transnational also included “Transnational Art in East Asia: The Politics of Exhibitions and Performances in the Twentieth Century” and “Transnationalism, Borderlands, and the History of Archaeology in Twentieth-Century East Asia,” among others.

The former looked at documents from Xinjing that provide local accounts of Aurel Stein's early 20th century expeditions (Justin Jacobs) and cultural exchanges between PRC and US archeologists (Clayton D. Brown), among other thought-provoking inquiries. The latter included discussions of art exhibits and exchanges between Japan and the PRC in the 1950s (Yanfei Yin), KMT art exhibitions in France between 1924-1964 in France (Jennifer Chernick), and Areum Jeong’s fascinating account of activists who are documenting and memorializing the Sewol ferry disaster of 2014.

I was grateful to participate in a panel, inherently comparative in its approach, entitled “Divergences and Convergences: Comparative Studies of Contemporary Literature, Film and Theater in PRC and Taiwan” with papers analyzing theater (Hongjian Wang), poetry (Brian Skerratt), fiction (Chialan Sharon Wang), and film (link to the panel papers here and my abstract here) on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Surprisingly, oftentimes Taiwan and PRC studies are not brought together in such a manner. A transnational comparative approach is essential when doing so, I believe.


Multiple presentations included "Transnational" in their titles; however below is a list of panels that contained in "Transnational" in their panel titles.

61. Legal Shades of Grey: Transnational Commerce in Early Communist China – Sponsored by Historical Society of Twentieth Century China (HSTCC)

92. May Fourth and Its Aftermath in a Transnational Context (missed due to having a panel at the same time)

173. Transnational Art in East Asia: The Politics of Exhibitions and Performances in the Twentieth Century

203. Transnationalism, Borderlands, and the History of Archaeology in Twentieth-Century East Asia

325. Construction of the Early Manchu State: Manchus and Their Transnational Relations from Aspects of Economy and Ideology – Sponsored by the Manchu Studies Group

333. Affiliations, Networks, and Identities: Transnational Chinese Religions in the Modern Period

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