Friday, November 30, 2007

"Forget it ... It's Chinatown"

For the final paper, I would like to interrogate the phenomenon of Chinatowns as one constitutive of both imagined communities and an imagined network. Starting from the idea of diasporic migration with its roots in the pursuit of capital, the heritage of colonialism, and the flight from political turmoil, I will investigate how migration works alongside a particularly strong cultural identification to produce a reterritorialization and imagining of community. Themes and texts I plan on using include: the role of trauma and community as a site of memory (Sturken), migrant populations as allegorical packages (Tsing), imagined communities (Anderson), actually-existing cosmopolitanisms (Robbins), homogenization and difference (Appadurai), the franchise (Stephenson), the background of the Speakeasy project (Hirsch and Liu), how the idea of curating an urban space emerges in the No Chinatown project (Lu Jie), and the film Chinatown. I'm particularly interested in how the idea of Chinese-ness becomes distorted through the process of its global dislocation, and yet how many elements of the networked diaspora nevertheless remain very strongly tied into an idea of a universal China. I'd also like to use these media texts to look critically at how the idea of Chinatowns comes into dialogue with mainland Chinese notions of urbanity. To help organize these explorations, I will follow the trace of an imaginary immigrant whose digitally-constructed body will serve as the hypothetical site of confluence of these technologies, theories, and observations.

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