'Gangnamscape.' Apartments and the Vertical City in South Korea


Thursday, September 28, 2017, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Belfer Case Study Room (S020), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

SBS Distinguished Lecture in the Social Sciences
SBS poster

Valérie Gelézeau
Associate Professor, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)

Valérie Gelézeau is associate professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, Paris), within the Centre for Korean Studies, and was affiliated fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden in 2015. Her research addresses the various dimensions of space as a social construct in contemporary Korea, via various perspectives including urban geography, cultural geography, regional geography and geopolitics. She is the author of Ap’at’ŭ konghwaguk (“The Republic of Apartments”, Seoul, Humanitas, 2007, a research focusing on the development of apartment complexes in Seoul since the 1970s), Atlas de Séoul (2011, a geographical monograph of Seoul as a megacity). With Koen De Ceuster and Alain Delissen, she edited De-bordering Korea. Tangible and intangible legacies of the Sunshine Policy (Routledge 2013), a book deciphering the multiple facets and scales of the inter-Korean border between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. EHESS webpage: http://crc.ehess.fr/index.php?170

Chaired by Nicholas Harkness, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University

In 2012, PSY’s global hit Gangnam style triggered a crazy world passion for a new and strange choreography on the scene of prominently featured apartments. The horse dance globalized the Gangnamscape, which high rise housing disseminated a common image, somewhat glamourous, of South Korean cities. This conference tries to elucidate this new expression of the “Republic of apartments” (Apat’ŭ konghwaguk). Largely unknown to city-dwellers before the 1960s, large apartment complexes (ap’at’ŭ tanji) are now powerfully shaping the landscapes of contemporary South Korean cities. They are now memorialized by artists (from PSY to well-known photographers), planners or citizen themselves. Apartments have been the main architectural mediation to the making of the South Korean modern urban society. They are still at the core of the material and immaterial city in South Korea. The talk will discuss those issues, combining the perspectives of cultural geography and Korean studies and using ethnographic materials gathered on sites studied since the mid-1990s (in downtown Seoul) and new ones in the making (Songdo).

Supported by the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) Endowment for Korean Studies at the Korea Institute, Harvard University