Transnational Urban Humanities
A RIH-funded Interdisciplinary Research Project
This initiative provides an interdisciplinary platform for humanities scholars working in different fields, locations, and periods to examine the interconnected cultures and aesthetics of understudied cities in Asia and elsewhere. It also aims to cultivate networks between urban humanities scholars at CUHK with other universities in Hong Kong and overseas.
- Elmo GONZAGA, Cultural and Religious Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Joana MANSBRIDGE, Associate Professor, English (Theater Studies), The Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Collier NOGUES, Assistant Professor, English (Creative Writing), The Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Klaudia H.Y. LEE, Acting Head, English, City University of Hong Kong (19th and 20th Century Anglophone Literature)
- Alvin K. WONG, Director, Centre for Globalization and Culture, Comparative Literature, The University of Hong Kong (Sinophone Media Studies)
• To provide an interdisciplinary platform for humanities scholars working on different fields, locations, and periods to examine the interconnected cultures and aesthetics of understudied cities in Asia and elsewhere.
• To cultivate networks between urban humanities scholars at CUHK with other universities in Hong Kong and overseas.
• To organize an international workshop featuring speakers from different disciplines including Literature, Film and Media Studies, Urban Anthropology, Cultural Geography, and Art and Architecture History.
• To produce an edited volume comprising papers developed for the workshop.
Project brief description
Policy institutes and consultancy firms such as AT Kearney and the Economist Intelligence Unit have highlighted how rapidly expanding cities in Asia are becoming the key drivers of the global economy. Recent initiatives in the Urban Humanities have tended to center on the disciplines of Geography and Architecture in North America and Western Europe. This working group aims to provide a platform for interdisciplinary research that will examine the changing cultures and aesthetics of metropolitan areas and city clusters across Asia and around the world by drawing on the concepts and methods of the arts and humanities in relation to other fields.
This working group will build on recent interdisciplinary and cross-institutional initiatives in Urban Humanities. HKU has its own Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative, which has been in existence since 2012. The newly established Urban Humanities Network, which comprises Harvard University, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, University of Arizona, Washington University-St. Louis, and UCLA, held its inaugural conference in March 2023. The similarly new Communicative Cities Research Network, involving a partnership between Fudan University and the National University of Singapore, will stage its inaugural conference at Yonsei University in October 2023. Convened by interdisciplinary humanities scholars in CUHK and CityU, together with collaborators in HKU and HKBU, this initiative in Transnational Urban Humanities has great potential to expand its network to encompass scholars based in different universities and cities around the world.
This cross-institutional, collaborative Transnational Urban Humanities initiative will draw on concepts and methods from interdisciplinary works in Literature, Film and Media Studies, Urban Anthropology, Cultural Geography, and Art and Architecture History. Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1974; Wiley-Blackwell, 1992) is seminal in various fields for theorizing the connections among spatial ideologies, practices, and imaginaries. Nezar AlSayyad’s Cinematic Urbanism (Routledge, 2006), Yomi Braester’s Painting the City Red (Duke, 2010), and Gyan Prakash’ Noir Urbanisms (Princeton, 2010) explore how film imaginaries shape the visions and blueprints of urban planners and designers. Jini Kim Watson’s The New Asian City (Minnesota, 2011) analyzes how novels and poems capture the effects of global capitalism and national development on the residents of the capitals of Asian Tiger Economies. Lastly, Setha Low’s On the Plaza (Texas, 2000), AbdouMaliq Simone’s For the City Yet to Come (Duke, 2004), and Aihwa Ong’s Neoliberalism as Exception (Duke, 2006) are pioneering ethnographies of how processes of development and neoliberalism are experienced and negotiated in distinct ways by urban residents through their own frameworks and languages.
Informed by these interdisciplinary works, the RIH-funded Transnational Urban Humanities working group aims to explore the following key questions:
• How can interdisciplinary concepts and methods from Literature, Film and Media Studies, Urban Anthropology, Cultural Geography, and Art and Architecture History be used to examine the cultures and aesthetics of understudied cities?
• How do the production, circulation, consumption, and reproduction of cultural representations and artistic expressions shape the imagination, design, and construction of urban environments?
• How might the dynamic, changing cultures and aesthetics of cities shape their residents’ identity, aspiration, agency, and community?