Rethinking the Asia “Pivot”


Keynote speaker: Cynthia Enloe


Guest Panel including (from left to right)Theodore Hughes (moderator), Dalida Maria Benfield (artist-scholar), Jane Jin Kaisen (artist), and Kakyoung Lee ( artist)

Speakers, artists, and activists came from all around the world to Rutgers to speak on the visual art, history, and technologies of militarism.

Guest speakers on a panel, Rethinking the Asia “Pivot,” focused on its impact and students offered brief thoughts and questions. The event included international speakers from Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

The Margery Somers Foster center, Rutgers University libraries along with the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, and the Institute for Research on Women all came together to help organize the symposium.

Kayo Denda, head of the Margery Somers Foster Center, and Women’s Studies Library, was one of the organizers.

“This is the first year we are having this type of event this big that is part of the 16 Days of Activism,” said Denda. “The event acknowledges the 16 Days of Activism, and has many activists today that are here to speak on various topics. It is great for students, and has politics embedded in it, as well as a new investigation on militarism.”

Joanna Regulska, vice president of the Rutgers Center for Global Advancement and International Affairs said, “Violence against women still persists and is one of the most common violations of human rights today.”

The importance of sharing and gathering people to come together and view history of militarism allows not only the current generation to learn of current issues, but also to help make a change or get involved.

The second panel on the visual and narrative representations of militarism demonstrated three artists that composed work to show how militarism affected society.

Jane Jin Kaisen, a visual artist from Copenhagen, and Kakyoung Lee, an artist as well, both presented works on the political history and militarism of Jeju Island in South Korea.

Kaisen’s and Lee’s work were displayed at the symposium for the audience to view.

Kaisen’s Reiterations of Dissent (2011), a video based in Jeju Island, explores the Korean peninsula’s entangled geopolitics, and recalibrates the atrocities of “4.3”, a 1948 United States sanctioned massacre that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 30,000 Jeju residents. The video installation demonstrates the silence and difficult obstacles the people suffered.

Talia Nagri,a psychology majorat Rutgers,on the issue of militarism in other countries, said,“There are interconnected ideas, and I realized that everything comes together.”.

Lee’s Burning Island, an animation made in 2007, also reveals the experience of “4.3”, especially the families, women, and children. Theshort film consisted of her own personal artwork, and the intricate details and pieces demonstrated the time and effort it took to develop the piece to show the history of Jeju Island.

“The[Korean] government realized that they can’t hide everything from the people,” Lee said.

According to Lee,the government did not recognize its wrongdoing until 2003, when the silence was finally broken.

“Jeju Island is now a big tourist industry, and the Peace Park [site in memorial of 4.3] is completely separated from the famous tourist sites,” said Lee.

Cynthia Enloe, a research professor in the Department of International Development, Community and Environment at Clark University in Massachusetts, concluded the symposium with her talk on, “How Asian Feminists are making us all Smarter about Militarism.”

“When examining the causes of militarization in governments, institutions, and universities, it is important to look at the micro-processes within the overall process of militarization that involves feminist-informed analysis of the militarization of silence, national identity, security, fear and nation,” Enloe said.

“This symposium is really interesting, and I learned a lot of what I didn’t know before,” said Nagri. “I definitely want to look more into these topics as it really delves into the history of not only other nations, but America itself. You need to look at the entirety of the issue, and when you don’t look at it, that’s where history can repeat itself.”

For more information on the artists, and pieces presented, go to: