The Politics of Memory: Cultural Interaction and Confrontation among the Haunting Ghosts of Russians, Japanese, and Chinese in Harbin
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This dissertation focuses on a spatial analysis of the cultural memories of Harbin, a city in Northeast China, a former (semi)colony of Russia and Japan, and a habitat of more than forty nationalities from across the world in the first half of the twentieth century. Harbins history, determined in great part by a large foreign presence, is still a matter of contention in China and elsewhere. By adopting Pierre Noras concept of lieux de mmoire (places of memory), Henri Lefebvres notion of the social production of space, and concepts and theories of many others, this dissertation investigates the contested memories of Harbin through the lens of architecture, literature, film, and television drama. It conducts interdisciplinary and inter-medial examinations of Harbin as an encompassing lieu de mmoire, where various practices demonstrate, individually and collectively, differently yet consistently, the social signification of the citys pasts in the present, enriching the city with ambivalent and contradictory meanings, and contributing to the social production of the memorial space and spatial memory of the city. This dissertation examines Harbin as a contact zone amongst Russia, Japan, and China, and as a periphery of the cultural heartland of China. It attaches importance to memories as an arena for the contemporary Harbiners to negotiate the divergent ideologies, power contests, and economic and cultural concerns. The city itself is a palimpsest, a text which has experienced, and is experiencing, a process of being effaced and rewritten, translated, and resignified. The citys contested past overlaps with its present, persistently haunting and shaping the city, while experiencing metamorphosis and resurrection. Overshadowed by the real-and-imagined ghosts of the past, Harbin continues to function as a contested contact zone and frontier that de-territorializes Chinas homogeneous cultural identity from the periphery. In this way, Harbin describes a local particularism by evoking a future-oriented reinvigoration of its cosmopolitan past in the current context of globalization. In this process, contemporary Harbiners demonstrate ambivalence and paradox in promoting the citys exoticism as much as complying with the states construction of nationalism.