“Fish, Forests and Fungus: Vibrant matter(s) in the Environmental and Political Histories of North Korea”

Date/Time: Wed 18 Oct / 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm

Location: Building 54, Auditorium, Japanese Studies Centre

School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics (LLCL)


“Fish, Forests and Fungus: Vibrant matter(s) in the Environmental and Political Histories of North Korea”

From Pyongyang’s urban landscape to sacred political architectures of Mt Paektu, North Korea’s topographies are harnessed in support of its politics. While the nation’s coastlines, mountains and forests are by their nature more liminal and diffuse than its monolithic urban/political terrains, North Korean natures and wildernesses have long served its politico-developmental narratives, forging new ‘socialist’ landscapes and geo-political connections. These terrains are also almost entirely human in focus with little consideration given to a wider ‘web of life.’ Even though the narratives which co-produce the terrain of North Korea’s politics make enormous use of topography and environmental features, they do not for the most part include non-human or non-sentient residents or participants on/on the peninsula.

In this presentation Robert Winstanley-Chesters considers North Korean physical and cultural topography as an assemblage of actors and participants, from what has been termed a ‘more than human perspective.’ With what Jane Bennett has termed ‘vibrant’ or ‘lively’ matter in mind he reviews North Korea’s environmental history and its intersection with the politics and ideology of Pyongyang.

Please contract Andrew Jackson on 9905 8754 for more information.

Robert Winstanley-Chesters
is a geographer and Research Fellow at Australian National University. Previously Robert was a Post-Doctoral Fellow of Cambridge University (Beyond the Korean War). Robert obtained his doctorate from the University of Leeds with a thesis later published as “Environment, Politics and Ideology in North Korea: Landscape as Political Project” in 2014 by Lexington. Robert was also a co-editor of the edited volume “Change and Continuity in North Korean Politics” (Routledge) in 2016. Robert’s second monograph “New Goddesses of Mt Paektu: Gender, Violence, Myth and Transformation in Korean Landscapes” will be published in summer 2017/2018 by Lexington. Robert is co-author of the forthcoming monograph “Transformation of Korean Mountain Culture” which will be published in December 2018 by Lexington and is working on a third monograph entitled “Vibrant matter(s), Fish, Fishing, Conservation and Community in North Korea and its neighbours” for publication by Springer in summer 2019. Robert has also published in academic journals such as S/N Korean Humanities, Capitalism Nature Socialism, Asian Perspective and North Korean Review. Robert is currently researching leisure geographies, fishing and animal/creaturely geographies in North Korea and the colonial mineralogical and forest inheritances of the Korean peninsula.

Wednesday 18th October

1:00pm – 2:15pm

Auditorium, Japanese Studies Centre
 12 Ancora Imparo Way
Clayton Campus

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