Nissan Seminar: Decentring the Urban: Reclaiming Rural Space for Modern Living in Colonial Korea and After
Decentring the Urban: Reclaiming Rural Space for Modern Living in Colonial Korea and After
What place does the rural have under modernity? How have those in the rural negotiated social transformations that have resulted from modernization projects that emphasize industrialization and urbanization?
This presentation engages these questions through a study of religious-based agrarian movements in 1920s and 1930s colonial Korea. These movements carried out elaborate drives to reorder the countryside for the birth of a rural modernity that would feature an agricultural-based moral economy and forms of identity and consciousness rooted in the present. These pursuits to reconstruct rural Korea into a modern agrarian paradise were fraught with immense challenges as they battled two opposing forces: modernists who desired an electric urban future and traditionalists who longed for a pristine rural past.
This presentation studies how the movements created a form of rural modernism through the theory of reclamation—a concept from landscape architecture that stresses a temporal and spatial framework for modernity that is centred on the present and sensitive to place. In showing why and how they created an alternative form of modernity, this presentation shows how they subverted the standard meaning of modernity that had ironically tied together the norms of Korean modernism and of Japanese colonialism. In so doing, it reflects on the place of the rural and agriculture in Korean and East Asian Studies today as scholars have primarily focused on happenings in urban settings over rural issues.