What is a city in modern China and Korea? Is modern Shanghai a Chinese city or a cosmopolitan space? What makes Beijing a Chinese city? In what sense is it not? Is Seoul a Korean city? It is commonplace to note that modernity and national identity in most states evince complicated dialectical relationships revolving around time and space. Once one considers modern East Asia, however, the cities exhibit even more intricate features than other areas of the globe. In modern East Asia, cities express not just the conflict between time and space, but also the tension between colonialism and nationalism. Moreover, colonial modernity in East Asia is further complicated by the region’s own imperial past. 

The main objective of this seminar is to help the participants, informed by relevant historical sources and urban theories, reconstruct a visible face of urban change over time on their own terms. The evolving meaning of the complex relations between national identities and the sites and structures of select East Asian cities will be explored. Participants will challenge the conventional dictum that “time conquers space.” Each course will also involve a heavy dose of independent exploration of urban sites of the student’s choice.  


Seungjoo Yoon, Associate Professor of History
Professor Yoon has taught East Asian History at Carleton since 1999 and served as director of the East Asian Studies concentration at Carleton. Born and educated mostly in Seoul, he has also lived in China (Beijing and Wuhan), led Carleton students to East Asian cities (Shanghai, Seoul, Shenyang, Dalian, and Fuzhou) for collaborative research projects, and taught at Seoul National University. He has also worked extensively in select libraries and archives in Beijing, Wuhan, Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagasaki, Changchun, Shenyang, as well as in Seoul. Professor Yoon’s research and teaching interests include the evolving meaning of the “public” and changing patterns of public space in East Asia in its modern times. His current work focuses on the emergence of newspaper companies and press-like activities (e.g., propaganda regimes) in China at the turn of the 20th century. He is eager to share his enthusiasm for various aspects of urban life and local dishes in Beijing (and beyond) with students.

Assistant to the Director – Heekyung Yoon
Program Assistant – Claire Du, Class of 2008