Blog Post

What does it mean to traverse digital boundaries as an Asianist?

My dissertation topic is a cultural history of artists and their activities
from the oldest and largest Korean diasporic communities, exploring in
particular the ways in which they express self and construct identity.  I
focus specifically on artists who participated in large-scale controversial
exhibitions including the 2002 Kwangju Biennial's There:  Sites of the
Korean Diaspora
and the subsequent 2004 Korean Diaspora and Arts Symposium
in Tokyo.  What I have found is that even as the dissertation brings light
to multiple identity, indicating how the nation-state is increasingly
challenged by globalization, the paradox of diasporic art is that there are
those artists who reinforce monocultural or singular conceptions of national
culture or state affiliation for diasporic subjects. 

In other words, activities of diasporic artists, their
cultural production, and subsequent cultural networks characterize increasing
formations of transnational interactions and trans-state connections that evoke
loyalties and solidarities that both undermine and support traditional
allegiances such as kinship ties and ethnic relations that are part of
territorial nation-states.

Since the countries where overseas Korean artists produce
their artwork are far-flung, from Almaty (Kazahkstan), Sao Paolo, Yanji
(China), and Frankfurt to other cities in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, a
web-based platform for display and discovery becomes all the more
compelling.  Access through the web anticipates a continued collaboration
with artists, curators, and others involved in this project who have lent time
and energy to provide the material, energy, and thus sustenance to formations
of diasporic activities.  Also, the digital component is one that allows
for the visualization of these works and facilitates communication,
juxtaposition, and interaction, aiding our discovery of otherwise hidden
relationships (see moowheel visual). 

Depending on which attributes end-users emphasize, they will
inevitably reconfigure diasporic artists' identities, therefore manifesting how
complicated their histories, experiences, and expressions are.


"Traversing digital boundaries" as a junior scholar in Asian
studies (particularly as a Koreanist) has made apparent other structural
boundaries that are inherent in our practices as humanists in academia. 
For example, as the digital components of my own work have progressed in the
past several years, I have continually been challenged by the boundaries among
disciplines (not just resistance in social sciences and humanities, but also
the boundaries b/t or among humanists, computer sciences, and designers, many
of whom are working together for the first time), generational boundaries
between junior and senior scholars, technological boundaries between those who
do and do not have web access, cultural boundaries between English and
non-English speaking academic/diasporic communities, boundaires among political
agendas, and others.  

Such issues may not be the focus of HASTAC III's panels, presentations, and
workshops, and perhaps my concerns seem regressive juxtaposed to the exciting projects and innovations presented at HASTAC this year, but certainly the HASTAC Scholars' forum have addressed and discussed
some of the above issues that must be overcome so that hopefully in the future,
we will no longer need to signify the "digital" in digital humanities
because it will unquestionably be relevant to academic pursuits in the social
sciences and the humanities.



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