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After 'Assimilating Seoul': Ch’anggyŏng Garden and the Post-Colonial Remaking of Seoul’s Public Spaces
Todd A. Henry, Professor, Department of History, UCSD
The title of this talk is meant to signal two related topics for discussion. The first refers to my new book, Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and The Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014). The introductory part of the talk reviews the central argument of that book – namely, that public space functioned as “contact zones” wherein varying projects of assimilation were both implanted by state officials and contested by their non-elite users. The second part of the talk extends this story beyond the liberation of 1945 and into the history of South Korea. In this context, the title refers to the project of recasting the capital city as a capitalist and anti-communist focus of post-colonial politics. After briefly examining the post-liberation strategy of erasure, the fate of Namsan’s Shintō Shrines, I turn to the more common strategy of decolonization, which involved creatively “recycling” the city’s palace grounds before ultimately restoring them. To trace this decolonizing strategy, I explore the fate of Ch’anggyŏng Garden, whose popular zoo, park, museum and other recreational facilities persisted long after 1945. Meanwhile, the early architects of South Korea creatively re-used this site for new national purposes, including to memorialize anti-communist patriots and to showcase the country’s infant industries. It was only over the next three decades that the overlapping functions of this public space were separated into distinct sites, each capable of carrying out a specific role in re-subjectifying the citizenry.
Thursday, May 01, 2014 | 4:15 pm — 5:30 pm | RSVP Required