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Reclaiming the City

Perspectives on Contemporary Korea Conference

November 12-13, 2021 | University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI

Conference Details


Se-Mi Oh (Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan)
Francisco Sanin (School of Architecture, Syracuse University)

Who owns the city?

Who produces the city?

Who has the right to the city today?

How do we practice the city?

These are the driving questions that frame our 11th conference in the Perspectives on Contemporary Korea series at the Nam Center for Korean Studies at the University of Michigan. Thinking about various modes of spatial practices, this conference will probe the contemporary conditions of the city in a country that has undergone exponential growth and is in constant metamorphosis.

The starting point of our conversation is an acknowledgement that modern and contemporary cities are byproducts of power, be it a developmentalist state, technocratic urban management, or privatization of society. With that critical understanding, the conference focuses on the questions of spatial and social justice. The conference’s aim is not to confine itself to the question of accessibility but to broadly explore the role of the collective and the creative exercise of its power.

We welcome new questions and approaches about the fundamental rights of urban residents to make and remake the city -- how we envision power dynamics, rethink the role of architecture, art, and academia, and forge grassroot community organizations and activism. Beyond the idea of the city as a homogeneous field, we are interested in the ways multiple power structures configure and define social and political relations and how different forms of resistance and social practice aim to reclaim the city as a basic human right; in other words, we view space as a social and political practice. Also, by turning our attention to the cities in Korea, we recognize how the centrality of urban experiment in today’s world has shifted from the traditional models of the West to the wide range of experiences and experiments taking place in what has been defined as the global south. We welcome, therefore, presentations that highlight the connections between urban centers around the world while shedding light on the Korean experience.

We welcome presentations that can address the aforementioned and following questions, but not limited to these. 

  • Architecture and the city 
  • The commons 
  • Mobility, communication, social interaction
  • Development, gentrification, eviction, alternative practices 
  • Housing and its alter-egos 
  • Activism and protest
  • Disability and inclusivity
  • Gender and queer space
  • Migration and mobility
  • Climate change, ecology, environmental justice
  • Sustainability and technology
  • The pandemic
  • History, memory, archives
  • Tactical urbanism and urban hacking
  • Digital humanities and the city

The conference is dedicated to providing a space for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary dialogue and highlighting how creative and critical endeavors merge to define a new political and conceptual space, also interconnected with the visual, the imaginary, and the digital. We encourage participation not only from scholars and students of related disciplines and fields but also from artists, architects, activists, collectives, and communities who are producers of the city. The format of submission and presentation is not limited to academic papers and is open to photography, film, literature, graphic art, performance, music, mapping, installations, exhibitions, gatherings, and city labs to mention a few.

The conference will be held in hybrid format, so please indicate if you are willing to participate in person or virtually. Travel and lodging expenses to attend the conference in Ann Arbor will be covered by the Nam Center.

Translation is available for those who need it.