Questions for Asia
The term Asia is always ambiguous and in question. Geographical Asia is a part of Eurasian continent, and links to Africa. “Asia,” the mother of Atlas and the wife of Titan Iapetus, is a Goddess in Greek mythology. The Greek word Ἀσία(Asia) etymologically refers to “the land of Sunrise,” meaning the eastern territory, where colonies were established and were majorly inhabited by other people. The Romans named north-western Anatolia as Asia province; Asia Minor was in today’s Turkey and AsiaMajor in Iraq. “Asia,” the eastern land, was first a coherent and distinct concept for the “other” in relation to Europe. Henceforth, the entity of Asia cannot do without generalization and abstraction, because in reality Asia is contestant and heterogeneous with various and overlapping boundaries and localities. Facing modernity and colonialism, most of nation states in Asia have undergone twisted histories, tensioning traditions, coarse democracy and uneven urbanization. Wars, conflicts, crises, and diasporas are endemic symptoms of Asia from within and without.
In the past, pan-Asianism has always been an excuse for politico-militant interest. “Asia is one,” claimed by Okakura Tenshin (1861-1913) at the turn of the last century, projected the vision of “the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere” for Japan. Sun Yat-Sen, in the midst of China’s civil war during the 1910’s, propagated a united front of Asian countries through Chinese nationalism against European imperialism. In 1947 in New Delhi the first Inter-Asian Relations Conference hosted by Jawahalal Nehru, invited delegations from the Middle East to the Philippines, in fostering newly independent Asian countries. Interestingly, arguably the first “Asian Art Exhibition” went along with the conference. The third wave of pan-Asianism is the realpolitik for regional allies with shared politico-economic interests as a performative act in the international arena. Nehru addressed, “We stand at the end of an era and on the threshold of a new period of history.... Asia, after a long period of quiescence, has suddenly become important again in world affairs.” Indeed, the different plays of a homogenous Asia have never exhausted in its contemporary variations, either in China’s “One Belt One Road” or Trump’s version of “the Indo-pacific” to avoid the China-centric connotation.
We are living in times when there are more answers than questions-- Wikipedia, search engines, encyclopedia, and online learning, and those which can contribute to the accelerationism of a technopoly. Therefore, it would be necessary to ask significant questions, which are relevant to what we are actually witnessing. We turn our attention to question the notion of Asia in order to untangle histories and to project possible futures, and reconstruct its temporal-spatial configurations in multiplicities.
The plural form “Asias” can be apprehended to get close to the biosphere. These setsof questions can include the impact of colonialism and its aftermaths, conflicted internationalrelations and domestic affairs, states of exception in martial laws or enclaves,traces of wars in national monuments and memorials, multilayered topologies of Asian utopia and dystopia, and so forth. These questions are not intended to give a common
identity nor denominators, but to render multitudinous Asia possible, that is, to disclose singularities from the easily ignored and the underrepresented in making them to be