Director’s Greeting


 

The Institute for East Asian Studies (IEAS) serves as a foothold for the productionof inter-Asian knowledges and cultural production that is intended to es-tablish a critical cultural politics and engage in academia and the real world in a critical manner, thereby opening a new horizon for Asia.

By taking note of cultural formation processes in Asia, we promote a productive combination of cultural studies and regional studies of Asia. Furthermore, drawing upon accumulated research outcomes and collective research capacities, we’ve recently adopted the comprehensive agendaof ‘Asia as ‘culture’: reconstructing Asia through ideology, institution and everyday life,’ and currently, we are endeavoring to open cultural perspectiveson alternative regionalizations of Asia, reorganizing historical and contemporaryunderstandings of Asia.

Our goal is to create ‘an image of Asia where horizontal relatedness is realized.’ Asia represents diverse lives, created by macrostructures and players together.The minds and lives of those who are living in Asia today move along complexcurrents of economic and political changes. The minds and lives of those who have been living within a ‘nation’ in Asia have been restricted within axiological and material regulations of a nation state. Moreover, in Asia, the influence of the ideologies abetting nationalization, like nationalism andpatriotism, remains powerful and conflicts over national interests between states, as well as over issues involving history and security, still persist.

Meanwhile, as seen in the development of ASEAN, the ASEAN+3 and FTAs, those with economic and political power are presently in a rush towards political and economic integration of the region. Such a trend intends to strengthen the ideologues for hegemonic regionalism, thereby creating a ‘people’ of Asia. Amid trends towards a top down regionalization, people have rushed into new forms of regional lives across borders. Asia’s horizon has shifted with the acceleration of racial and cultural mixing, as exemplified in the trans-border migration of laborand interracial marriage, and the trans-boundary expansion of cultural consumption following the advancement of media and cultural industrialization. To that extent, Asia is jolting in a torrential manner both within and outsideof ourselves.

IEAS intends to actively engage in the history, and the contemporary present of Asia that is presently restructuringitself. Methodologically, we intend to initiate cultural and political transformations of Asia or a transformation of Asian studies in terms of culture and politics. In other words, we intend to distance ourselves from spatio-geographicalor geopolitical paradigms and reconceptualize Asia from an axiological one, thus articulating a new value system.

The manner in which we pursue ‘Asia’ is distinct from orientalism or self-orientalism, which both the western world and Asia have been long reproducing. We are not on a track to seek an Asianism with an essentialistcharacter. Rather, because we consider the processes through which Asians have been formulating Asia in dailylife as the most important of all, we intend to approach the ideal and material states of Asia in terms of culturalformations.

We commit ourselves to addressing the following problematics: self-reflection on Asia as a valueparadigm, the articulation of culture and politics, critical engagements of historical and present realities, the formationof subjectivities producing knowledge and culture, and the production of inter-Asia knowledges and culture. We cannot carry out our research activities and projects alone. We champion the construction of inter-Asiaacademic networks and knowledges in the spirit of sharing of inter-Asia knowledge that involves a process ofharmony, discussion, exchange and communication among relevant researchers and cultural workers from Asia and around the world.

Furthermore, we hope for a process envisioning historical and contemporary relations of Asia within and outside ourselves beyond the boundaries of nation states, and look forward to encounteringfuture repositionings in relation. The members of IEAS regard this praxis through the medium of the region as a way to link to the world and to explore points of future articulation. It has been five years since the inception of IEAS.

We have carried out a substantial amount of research and hostednumerous projects in this short period of time. In this pilot phase, we have endeavored to secure bi-lateralrelations in communicating and promoting exchanges with researchers from the region and around the world. As a result and despite a lack of a systematic and stabilized ground for research, we have accomplished a lot. We have hosted international scholarly conferences, facilitated diverse academic exchanges, inaugurated publicationand archive development, and initiated social activism projects. By taking inventory on the accomplishments and limitations of the work we have promoted so far, we intend to achieve the displacement of related issuesonto the horizon for Asia, thus formulating a substantial process for engaging and enjoying the production ofknowledges and culture in Asia.

We shall pursue a critical and practical academism by further interrogating ‘politically correct’ positions, and will move to advance towards the promising future of a tranquil Asia and cultural Asia where there is neither a superiornor an inferior place within itself. In order to achieve this goal, we will side with the dynamic cultural and political capacity of Asia.

 

Paik Won-dam, Director
March 31, 2009