Tapestry of Modernity: Urban Cultural Landscapes of Colonial Korea, 1920s-1930s An International Interdisciplinary Conference | February 16-17, 2012
Within the conceptual framework of multiple modernities, this conference will explore multi-layered arrays of Korean modernity by looking at different areas in society and culture that went through a metamorphosis as Korea reinvented itself as a modern state-nation during the colonial period. Individual conference papers will explore various forms of selectivity, creativity, inventiveness, imaginary resourcefulness, and visions of Koreans engaged in crafting their own brands of modernity. The focus of the conference will be the cultural modernity projects nurtured and cultivated in the urban setting of Korea in the decades of the 1920s and the 1930s, when such modern transformation was most vigorously pursued and propagated and its achievements most visible and vibrant.
Within this thematic and temporal framework, each paper is dedicated to investigating how colonial Koreans understood modernity, how they expressed such notions in their respective cultural fields, and even how their ingenuity compared with that of Japan, the main conduit through which Western modernity reached Korea. The conference constitutes a concerted attempt to unravel the multidimensionality of core institutional and cultural constellations that emerged as colonial modernity in Korea as truthfully as possible. That is, the conference as a whole is a project to depict a true scroll of Korean modernity that was refracted by the prism of tradition, nationalism, colonialism, nascent capitalistic consumerism and feminism, and anti-Japanese resistance, to name a few. These efforts will collectively contribute to writing-off the invalid and misleading discursive narratives that often label Korean modernity as a less perfect, defective, or even deformed hybrid of Western or Japanese counterparts.
The conference ultimately aims to free studies of Korean modernity from the burden of colonial victim mentality/negativity and from Euro/Western-centric perspectives as well. In its place, this conference, by enlisting multidisciplinary expertise in various Korean cultural fields, points toward generating and authenticating new bodies of critical knowledge, insights, and information on Korean colonial modernity through a fresh, revitalizing, and nuanced reading of its many faces and through revealing its multidimensional and even cosmopolitan achievements.