Research, English, GSWS

Christine Kim and Helen Leung on the Institute for Transpacific Cultural Research

January 30, 2017

The new Institute for Transpacific Cultural Research (ITCR) connects cultural researchers from North America, Asia, Australia and the Pacific. Officially approved by Senate in January 2016, the Institute’s official launch is the public symposium, “New Directions in Transpacific Cultural Research,” held February 9-10, 2017 at Harbor Centre.

Founded by Co-directors Christine Kim (English) and Helen Hok-Sze Leung (Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies), along with steering committee member Kirsten Emiko McAllister (School of Communication), the ITCR’s aims are collaborative. In growing the Institute, Kim and Leung have endeavored to “forge connections amongst international researchers who may otherwise not have a chance to work together; bring academic research into dialogue with arts, media, activist, or policy communities; and influence public discourse on issues of migration, diversity in arts and media, and the role of culture in economic development and social cohesion.”

This is reflected in the symposium’s line-up, which includes an array of scholars covering topics such as media, migration, rights, affect, and history.  

While many people might think of the “Transpacific” as an economic region, the work of the ITCR demonstrates the significance of culture to economic and political agendas. As Kim and Leung explain, “one only needs to think about how politicians promote or delegitimize trade deals, pipelines or military alliances to the general population (as demonstrated by recent elections in our own backyard and south of our border)” to see that “the success or failure of such attempts often hinges on how they shape cultural assumptions while deploying media and communication technologies.”

In turn, “how communities respond to — accept or reject or negotiate — these economic and political agendas also involves cultivating ideas, mobilizing passions, and imagining their place in the world.” Thus, the work of ITCR seeks to “understand how opinions and ideas develop, how media and communication technologies intervene, and how feelings of belonging, passion for change, or fears of difference impact economic and political issues, both historically and in this contemporary moment.”

In exploring the circulation of meanings – cultures, ideologies, bodies, histories, media – throughout the Pacific, the co-directors say that they are also interested in thinking about Vancouver’s position as a “gateway city” with a long history of migration: “Vancouver has so often been invoked as an ‘Asian city’ while at the same time going through processes of reconciliation with indigenous communities […] Many of these issues are of concern in many parts of Asia as well as in Australia and New Zealand.”

Indeed, within this history and this “contemporary moment” Kim and Leung find hope in the work of communities of scholars, artists, and activists alike: “While we are obviously concerned about the seeming intensification of xenophobia and racism in the world today, we find that there is simultaneously so much creativity, nuanced thinking, and passion from scholars, artists, activists, and people engaged in everyday dialogues about these matters. Their work inspires us to find new ways of communicating with each other, to understand and appreciate difference, to remember and honour histories, and to imagine possible futures.”

Visit the ITCR’s website to register for the free upcoming symposium.