“Heritage, conflicted sites and bordered memories in Asia” – Conference Programme (July 18)

July 18 and 31, 2020 – ONLINE (Zoom), through Kyushu University Border Studies

July 18 – 1600-1900 (JST)

DAY 1: Materials and Modes for Narrating the Past

Session 1: Time and the Nation

“The Chineseness of Chinatown in Singapore”, Ying-Kit Chan (Leiden University)

For many young Singaporeans, the word “Chinatown” evokes (only) images of a busy MRT (Singapore’s heavy rail rapid transit system) interchange, an occasionally bustling marketplace selling essential items for the Lunar New Year and other Chinese festivities, and a food haunt for those with a Chinese palate. But for an older generation of Singaporeans, especially the Chinese who had lived in the shophouses and walked the verandahs of Chinatown, it is a site of nostalgia, a (declining) bastion of culture, and, as the earliest (colonially designated) Chinese settlement in Singapore, a source of local Chinese identity. The sense that Chinatown had been an organic ethnic enclave is widely shared among Chinese Singaporeans who are born and raised in the country; it was rendered more acute sometime in the mid-2000s, when a massive influx of immigrants from mainland China complicated the issues of ethnic Chinese identity and belonging in Singapore. Like the other phase of Chinese identity construction in Singapore (in the wake of independence, when all “sub-identities” of citizens who could claim descent from families in China were subsumed under the Chinese race and the Mandarin language), the latest (re-)construction of Chineseness shapes the ideas of authenticity and nativism vis-à-vis nation-building and national integration. This paper suggests ways in which the six cross-generational faces of Chinatown can be examined in light of such developments and heritage tourism, which intensified in the area during the early 2000s.

“The Inheritance of Voice, Intentionality, and Provincial Japan: Storytelling in Tsugaru”, Joshua Lee Solomon (Hirosaki University)

Aomori prefecture, located at the northernmost tip of Honshu, has been constructed in the popular imagination as a reservoir of authentic Japanese tradition and pastness. This discourse of authenticity, generated in large part by the postwar tourism industry, has been famously deconstructed in the scholarship of Marylin Ivy. However, that scholarship, much like the advertising campaign it analyzes, leans heavily on the perspective of Tokyoites/urbanites themselves. By contrast, this paper addresses the construction of heritage in the Tsugaru region of Aomori prefecture by and for the local people. Specifically, it introduces an ethnographic account of a group of contemporary storytellers who train to perform oral folklore using esoteric and increasingly anachronistic vernacular speech forms. These storytellers, a group of hobbyists called “Wa no mukashi-ko,” see themselves as creating meaning for both themselves and their audiences through the inheritance and stewardship of their language and craft. The paper continues to contextualize that storytelling work with the regionalist philosophy of Fukushi Kōjirō from the 1920s and 30s. Fukushi’s writing laid the foundation for a contemporary “dialect poetry movement” and subsequent mobilizations of “Tsugaru dialect” as a mode of cultural production. The paper concludes by arguing that this inheritance and practice of vernacular speech and oral performance attests to the conflicted status of regional Japan vis-à-vis the hegemonic, cosmopolitan culture of the so-called “center.” Through this work, I hope to balance the fascistic potential inherent in place- and tradition-centered movements against the personal value of lived folkways and identities of their participants.

“Politics of Heritage: The Takatori Residence as an Expression of Status for the Meiji Elite”, Arisha Satari (Kyushu University)

Architecture in premodern Japan served as an expression of high social status, cultural prestige, and wealth. In the Meiji period, this method was also employed by emerging professional groups (entrepreneurs, politicians). Members of these groups aspired to represent their new status in the visual and physical terms, which manifested in the residential architecture. My paper focuses on one object example, the Former Takatori Residence in Karatsu. The large residential compound was created and owned by the industrialist Takatori Koreyoshi 高取伊好 (1850–1927) and is characterized by an eclectic mixture of western and traditional Japanese architecture styles.

The building represents hybridity by incorporating previous traditions and then contemporary architectural development into one structure. In my interpretation, this demonstrates how tradition was established in a period of rapid change for the construction of social identities. The newly emerging groups appropriated the formal language of traditional architecture for its close associations with premodern elites and imbued it with positively evaluated undertones of “Japaneseness.” Simultaneously, they adopted signature elements of western architecture with the intention to express “modernity.” In this paper, I will focus my investigation on two rooms that served as semi-public spaces: the Noh Stage and the Western-style parlor. I will analyze the presentation of social identity that manifests in the structural and decorative elements of each room and the larger building complex. I aim to understand the Takatori residence in its present status as an example of national heritage that epitomizes a seminal moment in Japan’s political, social, and architectural history.

Commentator: Steven Ivings (Kyoto University)

Session 2: Repurposing Sites in/as Heritage

“World Heritage and Intimacies: Insights from ‘Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region’”, Raluca Mateoc (University of Geneva)

The inscription of Japan’s cultural property “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region” in June 2018 on the World Heritage List brings out a scholarly and everyday re-visitation of the “Hidden Christians”, or the descendants of Japan’s evangelized population who chose the concealment of their faith while Christianity was forbidden in the archipelago. The cultural property’s Outstanding Universal Value stands in the religious tradition and lifestyle that the “Hidden Christians” of the Nagasaki region nurtured during the ban. Previous work approached the configurations of the nomination and the transformation of the Kakure Kirishitan (contemporary Hidden Christian) religious tradition into a national heritage, while looking at specific regional groups. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2017-2018, this paper takes a novel approach by examining the connection between heritage and tourism in the overall cultural property, a “serial” property gathering twelve components spread over Nagasaki and Kumamoto Prefectures. After discussing the institutional tourism engagements and memory spaces, I depict the life of three elements – the church, the tangible aspects of historical Hidden Christians, and the overall coastal / offshore village – in the narratives of local residents and guides and related cultural intimacy forms (Herzfeld, 2005). When doing so, I show that there is no dominant narrative related to the connection between heritage and tourism in the cultural property. The paper will contribute to understanding the role of “World Heritage” in the reconfiguration of intimacies at institutional and everyday level in Japan and beyond.

“Art in former military sites: spectres of geopolitics in South East Asia”, Gabriel Gee (Franklin University, Lugano)

In the late twentieth century, former industrial warehouses have been found throughout the globe to provide ideal spaces for the exhibition of contemporary arts. Following the diversification of practices at the turn of the 1960s, abandoned factories offered ideal opportunities for the development of new artistic forms such as installation and performative works. They also embodied significantly the shift from fordist and modernist societies, to more flexible consumerist models. In parallel, one might notice that former military and surveillance sites have on many occasions encountered a similar fate. In South East Asia, the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Singapore for example is located in the former Gillman Barracks of the British army. In the Kinmen Islands off the Chinese coast and under the control of the Taiwanese government, the floating island project in 2013 revisited bunkers and battery sites through site specific contemporary art interventions. More generally, sites that had been used as barracks or part of surveillance apparatus, have re-emerged as cultural centres, such as the Tai Kwun police station in Hong Kong, or the State Side Town in Naha, where American soldiers and their families used to live. This paper aims to reflect on the repurposed functionalities of such past military sites, and the manner through which military history and heritage in South East Asia survives, visibly and invisibly. Furthermore, the reinvention of such sites does not attest to the disappearance of military infrastructure and pressure, simply relocated to more appropriate facilities. Military and surveillance heritage sites offer an opportunity to consider the changing textures of geopolitics, and the profound reminders caught and voiced in their fabric by the spectres of history.

“Japanese War Sites as Contested Heritage”, Justin Aukema (Kyoto Women’s University)

Since the 1990s in Japan there have been growing calls to preserve war sites (senseki or sensō iseki) such as former military facilities from theAsia-Pacific war. But Japan’s Asia-Pacific war sites have been a contested heritage. Part of this is due to and the difficulty of preserving the “negative heritage (fu no isan)” of war and atrocity. Another reason lies in the history of the sites themselves. As this essay argues, memories of the wartime past have had to compete and vie for attention within sites’ larger “biographies of place.” Often this has resulted in the marginalization of war memories within the space of war sites. To illustrate this, the essay highlights buildings from the former Army 16th Division in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward. The 16th Division (Dai-jūroku shidan) was involved in painful past events such as the 1937 Nanking Massacre and the 1944 Battle of Leyte. Yet when the former military facilities were repurposed in the postwar, first as a Catholic women’s school and later by war bereaved and former veterans’ groups as a commemorative “site of memory,” difficult events from the 16th Division’s past played little part in their newly acquired identities. Even after being designated Cultural Properties (bunkazai)in 2016, in the absence of any detailed historical explanations at the site, they remain detached from their wartime past. The essay thus raises questions about the ability of Japan’s Asia-Pacific War sites to fully “narrate” the war. And it sheds light on the complex relations between shifting historical memories on the one hand and the heritage of war and atrocity on the other

Commentator: Edward Boyle (Kyushu University)

REGISTER FOR DAY 1 HERE: https://forms.gle/eP44yhjZr6YykoVN7

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