(Im)Possible Asias: Introduction

Curator's Note

Where is Asia and how do we conceive its boundaries? This week’s curation explores this question in relation to the articulation of identity and memory in film and media. The posts for this week interrogate how Asia is imagining itself beyond the limits of the nation-state, at a time when transnational cultural and economic flows are changing the way we relate to the geopolitical region. Instead of confining ourselves within national boundaries, we argue that thinking transnationally is a way of returning specificity to the region rather than erasing it. In other words, a “region” such as Asia, is often imagined in terms of cultural modes that are not necessarily national ones. If nations, as Benedict Anderson says, are “imagined communities,” then what other imaginations, and images of belonging and relation are possible? Is a singular “Asia” a viable category to comprehend the complex cultural relations in this region, or do we need to return to previous ways of imagining the region?

With these questions in mind our first post by Sebnem Baran explores the ways Istanbul emerges as a bridge between Asia and Europe through the documentary Crossing the Bridge: Sound of Istanbul (Fatih Akin, 2005). Next, Jinhee Park uses the autobiographical film My Father’s Emails (Dir. Hong Jae-hee, 2012) where the filmmaker’s nostalgic desire of going back home to North Korea is expressed through the creation of an alternative dreamscape in the film. In our third post, Anirban Baishya also explores the themes of nostalgia and memory by focusing on the documentary The Legend of Fat Mama (Dir. Rafeeq Ellias, 2011) that explores the trauma of Chinese-Indians expelled during the Indo-China border conflict of 1962. Shifting the thrust of the imagination of Asia to encompass the experiences of Asian workforce in the Middle East, Darshana Sreedhar Mini explores the construction of migrant experiences explored in the film Gaddama that follows the life of a female domestic worker. Taken together the four posts this week explore plural imaginations of Asia that are not always actualized in the past, but are always in the process of becoming. It is in this sense that we speak of “(Im)Possible Asias,” where the limits on these multiple imaginations always linger on as the specter of the nation-state within parentheses.

We would like to thank Debjani Dutta for her valuable inputs on this post

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