Organized Panel Session
Forty years after the state massacre of Gwangju citizens took place in May 1980, the history of what is now widely known as “5.18” is still a moving target. Just this past year, we have seen new facts about the tragedy unearthed, new testimonies made on public record, and old fabrications and fallacies resurfacing in news feeds. With the upcoming 40th anniversary of 5.18, this panel seeks to revisit the structure and semantics of platforms through which the newsreels, photographs, paintings, songs, and revolutionary affect from Gwangju have been transmitted across geographic and temporal boundaries. This history of transmission, as much as the history of representation, is important particularly because the political potential of Gwangju lies not only in the actual event of coalition formation (“absolute community”) in the face of a state massacre, but also in the power of that historical fact as it traveled beyond the initial ten days in Gwangju. If the 20th-anniversary edited volume Contentious Kwangju reassessed the uprising in light of the institution of South Korean democracy in 1987 and the national politics of commemoration in the 1990s, this panel expands on the transnational and global aspects of 5.18 and its expanding legacy. With the goal of situating 5.18 within the transnational history of revolution, the three papers highlight the urgency to consider interdisciplinary aspects of social movements and the historicization of its potential impact on future revolutions.