Workshop on Public Spaces, Creative Action, Democratic Practices in East Asia

May 7th-9th, 2021 (Asia: May 8th-10th)

For this three-day international workshop, UW community members and special invitees join special guests from the U.S. and East Asia to explore and share knowledge on current social movements across East Asia.


This three-day workshop is part of a larger project which began in 2019 and followed several other related collaborative efforts: Global Futures in East Asia (Anagnost and Arai 2014), Spaces of Possibility: Korea and Japan (Sorensen and Arai 2016), Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Asian Cities (Hou, Chalana, Abramson, Oshima, Prakash 2016)

The current project ‘Spaces of Creative Resistance’ is an interdisciplinary collaboration exploring current social movements across East Asia looking at how policies, reforms and the ethos of neoliberal capitalism, its disinvestments and dispossessions in and across East Asian national contexts, are being politically and materially contested by younger generations. From social startups and new communal spaces, to the participation in alternative economic pursuits and projects, these self-organized ‘grassroots’ initiatives reflect a desire for alternatives to the current socio-economic and socio-cultural structures. They also provide a window into the ways in which members of younger generations are mobilizing against what they see as barriers toward a more just and equitable society, and practical survival.

Participants’ research is based in on-the-ground fieldwork interviews and observation with young people at the locations of their engagement in creative action and democratic practices in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shanghai. They explore the significance of the rebuilding and/or repurposing of public and/or vacant space to: recreate publics, to stage socio-political movements, and also create new relationships with peripheral communities in both local and urban areas. Additionally, they are looking at the socio-cultural, historical and professional relearning processes involved in these actions and practices and how those involved define success.

The project includes three components. These are a collaborative fieldwork trip to one or more of the following areas of each participant’s individual research: Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Shanghai in 2019-20, an international conference at the University of Washington in Spring 2021, and publication of the conference papers in an edited volume to be co-edited by Jeff Hou and Arai Gevurtz Arai, project leads.

Agenda and Presenter Lists | Spring 2021 Affiliated UW Course

Symposium Hosts

Andrea Gevurtz Arai teaches Japan and East Asia cultural anthropology and society courses at the University of Washington. She is the author of The Strange Child: Education and the Psychology of Patriotism in Recessionary Japan (Stanford U. Press, 2016) and co-author of Spaces of Possibility: in, between and beyond Korea and Japan (UW Press, 2016), and Global Futures in East Asia (SUP, 2013). Arai is collaborating on a third East Asia project and edited volume: “Spaces of Creative Resistance in East Asia”.

She is working on a second monograph, on the aesthetics, feminist biopolitics and peripheral spaces of social movements in Japan and beyond.

Jeffrey Hou, PhD, is Professor of Landscape Architecture and director of the Urban Commons Lab at the University of Washington, Seattle. His work focuses on public space, democracy, community design, and civic engagement. In a career that spans the Pacific, Hou has worked with indigenous tribes, farmers, and fishers in Taiwan, neighborhood residents in Japan, villagers in China, and inner-city immigrant youths and elders in North American cities, on projects ranging from conservation of wildlife habitats to design of urban open space. Hou is known for his pioneering writing on bottom-up placemaking through publications including Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities

Event Sponsors

Global Innovation Fund, UW Office of Global Affairs
UW Japan Studies Program
UW East Asia Center
Department of Landscape Architecture, UW College of Built Environments
UW China Studies Program
UW Center for Korea Studies
UW Taiwan Studies Program
UW Center for Global Studies