The idea of public and private in Asia has closely engaged in economic, ideological, and cultural vicissitude in the region. The public is (con)fused with the nation, state, the collective, and the community and is further complicated by (post)colonial condition, military dictatorship, communism, the Cold War, and, more recently, global capitalism. On the contrary, the meaning of private wagers selfishness, political withdrawal, lack of sacrifice spirit and individualism, individual right, and freedom. Theoretically, Western conceptualizations of “the public,” particularly the Habermasian concept of “public sphere,” have been used as a starting point to discuss and develop visions of modern democratic societies. However, these concepts, directly and indirectly, encounter, confront with, and compromise the historical idea of public/private domain in Asian linguistic and discursive contexts. The intricate meanings of “public” (gōng in Chinese and Korean and kō/ōyake in Japanese) and “private” (sī in Chinese, shi/watakushi in Japanese and sa in Korean) have been loosely understood and used without and have not scrutinized in specific time and space. Moreover, between public and private terrains emerges a third conceptual space of the commons, whose heterogeneity is also undergoing risks of being reduced to the normative “common sense” or “consensus.”
Pan Lu is Assistant Professor at Department of Chinese Culture, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She was visiting scholar and visiting fellow at the Technical University of Berlin (2008 and 2009), the Harvard-Yenching Institute (2011-2012), researcher in residence at Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (2016) and visiting scholar at Taipei National University of the Arts (2018). Pan is author of two monographs: In-Visible Palimpsest: Memory, Space and Modernity in Berlin and Shanghai (Bern: Peter Lang, 2016) and Aestheticizing Public Space: Street Visual Politics in East Asian Cities (Bristol: Intellect, 2015).
Hyunjoon Shin is an associate professor at Sungkonghoe University in Seoul. His research focuses on popular culture, international migration and urban space, from the perspective of inter-Asia cultural studies. He was a research fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI) at the National University of Singapore in 2006-2007, a visiting professor at Leiden University in 2008-2009, and a visiting lecturer at Duke University in 2015. He is currently a member of the International Advisory Board of Popular Music and a member of the Editorial Collective of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies.