Remaking Worlds: The Geographical Imagination of Global Asias Through Art & Visual Culture

Penn State University invites applicants for its annual Global Asias Summer Institute, to be held June 15-19, 2020. This year’s Institute, co-directed by Laura Kina (DePaul University) and Chang Tan (Penn State), focuses on the geographical imagination of Global Asias through art and visual culture.

Institute participants spend a week reading and thinking about the annual theme, as well as significant time workshopping their work in progress. Particularly strong work will be considered for publication in an upcoming special issue on “Visualizing Asias” (issue 8.2) of the award-winning journal, Verge: Studies in Global Asias (

Penn State will cover housing and most meals, and offer an honorarium to help defray travel costs (USD 400 from the East Coast, 600 from the Midwest, 800 from the West Coast; USD 1000 from Europe; USD 1350 from Asia). Applicants must have completed their PhDs no earlier than June 2015, or be advanced graduate students who are completing their dissertations.

On the theme:

Maps traditionally function to draw territorial boundaries; assist with navigation; document physical geographies; and to visualize, render, and measure scientific data and “facts.” Art’s relationship to mapping foregrounds different goals such as documenting hidden histories and telling alternative narratives; standing in as a historical witness to resist revisionist history; functioning as a memorial to honor vanished spaces, places and peoples; challenging a viewer’s relationship to their environment and providing a new way of understanding their positionality; expressing symbolic form to convey impact and to document affect; and creating formats for collaboration and engagement. In other words, to envision Global Asias through art demands a leap of imagination that goes beyond and intervenes in the conventions and goals of representational cartography.

In the 2020 Global Asias Summer Institute, we explore the role of art and visual culture in the formation and revamping of the geographic imaginations of Asia and its diasporas, especially as such artistic production “overlaps a more tangible geography and helps shape our attitude to peoples and places” (Said, 1978). Specifically, how do art and visual culture document, decipher, and reinvent the haunted landscapes of war and migration and removal, the processes of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, the mapping of diaspora, or the emergence of alternative transpacifics? And how might artistic imagination and practice archive, dissemble, and interfere with the rapidly changing environments and habitats of the anthropocene, the glocal march of urbanization and gentrification, or the exploitation and injustice that accompanies the expropriation of land?

The institute aims to consider broadly the connections and tensions between the visual and the geographic in Asia and the Asian diaspora. We invite artists, curators, and scholars to address issues that include, but are not limited to, the following:

• How landscape, in myriad media and materiality, helps shape the imaginaries of the local, the national, the regional, and the global;
• Landscape’s vexed relationship to the sublime, manifest destiny, and settler-colonialism;
• Haunted landscapes, memories of war, affective space in art and visual culture;
• How land and its residents are conceived and visualized in the colonial and postcolonial context, tackling issues such as military occupation and deterritorialization;
• How the visual and the cartographic participate in discourses of land ownership, urban development, indigeneity, and boundaries;
• How art and visual cultures envision Oceanic conceptions of shared waterways to reflect real and imagined transpacific communities;
• Ecocriticism and eco-activism in the art and visual culture of Asia;
• Critical practices that trace displacement, movement, immigration and refugees;
• The politicization of aesthetics and the affective dimension of political activism.

To apply, please send the following documents to by March 6, 2020. Items #1-3 must be sent as a single PDF file; the recommendation letter for applications from advanced graduate students may be sent separately.

1. An abstract of 1500 words outlining research project and clarifying its connection to the Institute theme.
2. A sample of current work.
3. A current c.v. (no longer than 2 pp).
4. A letter from a principal advisor about the advanced status of work (in the case of graduate students).

Decisions will be made by April 3, 2020. Inquiries regarding the Summer Institute may be directed to Chang Tan ( or the Global Asias Initiative (