Cornell University

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SEAP Gatty Lecture Series

Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

"Explosive Bliss: Visualizing the Landscapes of Residual Vulnerability and (Toxic) Intimacy in Post-Cold War Southeast Asia"

Chairat Polmuk, PhD Candidate, Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University

This paper investigates transnational ecologies of the vestiges of war in Southeast Asia, where a shared experience of vulnerability has become the very condition of everyday reality and aesthetic expression. Focusing on the legacies in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand of the U.S. bombardment campaigns during the Second Indochina War, I look at how artists and filmmakers such as Allan Sekula (USA), Xaisongkham Induangchanthy (Laos), Vandy Rattana (Cambodia), and Tada Hengsapkul (Thailand) document the lingering effects—and affects—of Cold War atrocities through topographic aesthetics. Attentive to the materiality of space, these artists and filmmakers transform the wounded landscape into a locus of “residual vulnerability,” a corporeal and environmental exposure to explosive remnants of war that allow for artistic articulations of toxic—injurious yet constitutive—forms of intimacy and agency. Situating this artistic practice within post-Cold War geopolitics and the politics of reparation, I will discuss spatial configurations of residual vulnerability in contemporary visual and literary cultures as critiques of American exceptionalism, post-socialist revolutionary pathos, and ASEAN regionalist sentiment.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Southeast Asia Program

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SEAP Graduate Student Committee

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Chairat Polmuk

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Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University

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