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In the Mood for Texture: The Revival of Bangkok as a Chinese City

B&E Room 191 (Gatton Business School)
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s):
Dr. Arnika Fuhrmann (Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University)

Please join the Committee on Social Theory for the second speaker in our Spring 2024 Speaker Series on the theme of Global Asias happening on Friday, March 1 at 2 pm ET in B&E Room 191 in the Gatton Business School with Dr. Arnika Fuhrmann

This series will be featuring guest speakers engaging with interdisciplinary approaches across the humanities and social sciences to address the intensified contestation about Asia in light of the shifting geopolitical dynamics in the Asia-Pacific area and globally. The framing seminar which incorporates these guest speakers, ST 690/ MCL 525/ GWS 595: Global Asias, is co-taught by Dr. Liang Luo and Charlie Yi Zhang. 

Lecture Abstract

What does it mean to imagine “Asia” beyond the reductive visions of contemporary policy? This
talk explores the contemporary visual culture of Chinese pasts and colonial modernities, revived
in the cinemas, new media, hospitality venues, and other material sites of Bangkok. Examining
the doubling of Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Shanghai across these sites, it investigates how a
transregional Chinese modernity that emerged under but always exceeded conditions of colonial
and national governance informs the present. As film directors such as Wong Kar-wai and hotels,
bars, and clubs revive 1930s Shanghai and 1960s Hong Kong modernities—and exploit the
Chinese past of Bangkok’s old European trading quarters—this redeployment of (semi-)colonial
histories and Chinese urban pasts is emerging as a primary signifier of the good life and
understandings of Asia in the present. The deployment of this twentieth century translocal
modernity points to enduring regional imaginaries that diverge from global notions of “China
Rising,” the People’s Republic’s own Belt and Road Initiative, or the policies of the Association
for Southeast Asian Nations. Bangkok—as a Chinese city—stands at the center of these
prominent, transregional revivals in which media and urban design projects speak of radically
different desires than those of current policy.