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Romancing Urban Modernity in Tokyo, Taipei, and Shanghai: The Film About Love and the Shaping of a Discursive East Asian Popular Culture

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Abstract

Written at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Japanese critic and film historian Yomota Inuhiko’s observation about the interchangeability of the East Asian metropolises of Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong through a shared consumption of “nostalgia/familiarity” rings true.2 What is debatable is whether such an observation would have had equal resonance two or three decades ago, when the cityscapes of Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore, and Tokyo in the 1960s and 1970s would have been more distinct from one another. However, over the intervening decades, interconnected socio-economic, cultural, and political factors—ranging from the emergence of urban middle classes across most East and many Southeast Asian societies, to the emergence of civil societies in previously authoritarian societies such as South Korea and Taiwan—have facilitated the emergence of the kind of commonality across urban East Asia that Yomota makes reference to in the above comment.

Just as someone from Hong Kong would be overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu upon visiting Tokyo or Seoul, a person from Tokyo travelling to Hong Kong or Seoul would be struck with the same feeling. Before setting foot in a place, we are forced to associate with all sorts of images about that place. At the end of a labyrinth of copies of copies, we finally arrive, tired and exhausted, at the actual city, but it is no longer a heart-pounding adventure, but a simulation of an adventure — a “hyperreal” experience, to borrow Umberto Eco’s term. As long as we are in the midst of the structure of déjà vu, we can no longer visit “real” unknown places anywhere on this earth.1

Keywords

Popular Culture Cultural Industry Discursive Construction Culturally Proximate Affective Space 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Romit Dasgupta 2013

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