Socialist Postmodernism: Representative Architecture in Pyongyang, Astana & Ashgabat since 1989

October 20, 2016
12:00 PM
ASU Tempe campus, Coor Hall, room 4403 [4th floor]
Event Description: 

North Korea is often seen as a country stuck in a Stalinist time-warp, no more so than in its architecture, which is usually considered an architecture of socialist realism little changed since the early days of the Cold War. In fact, North Korea's urban landscape has evolved in numerous ways over the last several decades, not least in recent years when creeping marketization has created new spaces of consumption, distribution, and social interaction. Although still under one-party rule and therefore not (yet) "post-socialist," North Korea's transformations are parallel to those of former socialist countries of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, with which North Korea has maintained close connections throughout the regime's existence. North Korean architecture since 1989 - the year Pyongyang hosted the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, as well as the year the Berlin Wall fell - can be characterized as "socialist postmodernism," still dictated by the directives of the central state yet surprisingly resonant with both Western postmodernism and post-socialist trends in the former Soviet Union and China. The North Korean capital Pyongyang bears especially fruitful comparison with Astana and Ashgabat, the capitals of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan respectively, which have followed similar nationalist trends.

Charles K. Armstrong is The Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences in the Department of History at Columbia University. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of five books, including most recently Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950 – 1992 (Cornell University Press, 2013; winner of the John Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association) and The Koreas (Routledge: second edition, 2014). Professor Armstrong holds a B.A. in Chinese Studies from Yale University, an M.A. in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago. He has taught at Princeton, the University of Washington, and Seoul National University, and joined the Columbia faculty in 1996.

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A light lunch will be served.


This event is sponsored in part by the ASU Melikian Center.