Panel 5

V. Place and the Longing for Permanence in a Moving World
Chair: Gian-Piero Persiani, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UIUC

Across disciplines, the role of place in anchoring communities, shaping local cultures, and providing a source of continuity despite the flow of people, objects, and culture is recognized. Even in today’s globalized and highly interconnected world, place continues to anchor humans to specific locales and to foster place-specific ways of being and doing things. Experiences of displacement produce powerful affective effects ranging from trauma to nostalgia to political activism. At the same time, the stability of places is to a large extent human-made as places are produced and reproduced through such activities as naming, myth, history, storytelling, engineering, urban design, archeology, among others. The panel explores the ambiguous role of place as a socially-constructed source of stability and permanence in an interconnected, fast- moving world. Avoiding a rigid dichotomy between “reactionary” and “progressive” understandings of place (Massey), the panel examines the range of sometimes contradictory meanings that place has taken in a variety of local contexts in world cultural history from ancient times to the present.

Elizabeth Dunn, Geography, Indiana University
Quarantine: When Culture is Stopped”

At Camp Atterbury, a US Army training facility in Indiana, nearly 7000 Afghan evacuees sit in barracks, waiting to be “processed.”   As evacuees, they are people in motion: forced migrants on the move.   But at Camp Atterbury, that movement has been profoundly halted.   Instead, a quarantine zone has been established, one that divides the Afghans from the surrounding population with a militarized boundary.

In this paper, I compare the separation of the Afghans at Atterbury to medieval and contemporary notions of quarantine, extending the concept to think about not only biomedical hazards, but political, religious and moral risk.   Using my own experience as a Red Cross volunteer inside the facility, I show how the quarantine zone is created and the political hazards it sets up for those who made it and run it.  By discussing the problem of “humanitarian smuggling,” I also show how suspicion and affection run concurrently, and how otherness and connection combine to make the quarantine zone highly permeable.

Jeongsu Shin, Anthropology, UIUC
Ecologies of Difference”

“Ecologies of Difference” chronicles the interconnected impacts on the island of intensified programs of capitalist development and environmental conservationism beginning over the final decades of the 20th century. On the one hand, the natural environment was mobilized as a symbolic site of social displacement and exploitation on Jeju Island. On the other hand, Jeju’s natural environment became a site of rendering relationships among Jeju Islanders, histories, and nature. Following the ways in which environmentalist social activists in Jeju Island take a concept of ecology not only as holistic perspective on nature in natural science but also as heuristic approach to Jeju Island, this presentation demonstrate how the natural environment generates critical social commentaries on global capitalism and also on the brutal contemporary histories of Korea.

Gian Piero Persiani, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UIUC
“Sumiyoshi: Making and Unmaking of a Significant Place”

Places and the powerful affective bonds that they engender are an important source of stasis (and the desire for stasis) in a constantly moving world. Love of place drives decisions to stay put, efforts to stave off change, and hopes of returning in those who leave. But how do places acquire their affective and cultural significance, how do some attain national or even global significance, and can such special status be lost? The paper traces the history of Sumiyoshi, in present-day Osaka, one of premodern Japan’s premier “significant places.” From its origin as a sea deity worshiped by local fishing communities, to state-sponsored promoter of overseas conquest, protector of travelers to China, and guardian deity of poetry and poets, Sumiyoshi’s identity grew by accretion over a period of many centuries, as successive generations of individuals and communities found new ways to link its divine power to their endeavors. This long process of place production came to an abrupt halt in the modern period, when land reclamation projects all but severed Sumiyoshi’s age-old connection with the sea. Despite their semblance of permanence, places are no less fragile and subject to the whims of history than the individuals and communities that temporarily call them home.