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New Books in East Asian Studies: Jini Kim Watson

By Carla Nappi
New Books in East Asian Studies

watson_the newJini Kim Watson’s book links literature, architecture, urban studies, film, and economic history into a wonderfully rich account of the fictions of urban transformation in Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. Ranging from the colonial period to the late 1980s,The New Asian City: Three-Dimensional Fictions of Space and Urban Form (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) introduces fictional, poetic, and cinematic texts that reflect the different but concordant ways that writers in these newly industrializing cityscapes of the Pacific Rim negotiated new built environments and experiences of modern space. Watson expertly guides us through a historical and theoretical account of colonial urban development and the literature that emerged from it, before moving to the postwar and postcolonial context of the mid-late twentieth century. Individual subjectivities, as we encounter them in a series of fascinating literary texts, are reimagined in cities full of high-rise apartments, construction sites, and spatial forms that grow in tandem with forms of urban labor. Watson’s book considers the refiguring of interiors and exteriors, collectivities and persons, men and women, points and routes. Several chapters offer a comparative analysis of nationalist discourses and fictional forms in light of a new urban space pulsing with flows of commodities and laboring bodies. By the end of the book, the reader leaves this wonderful collection of stories and analyses inspired to think about and experience built space anew. (This reader certainly did!)

Listen to the interview here.

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The New Asian City