Language and the Locations of Global Asias

Dr. Jerry Won Lee

Though scholars from every discipline imaginable have explored the question of “what” is culture, Silverstein (2013) has proposed that we instead focus on the question of “where is culture?” (p. 328, emphasis in original). For Silverstein, culture is to be found in the signification, circulation, and emanation of discourse, there is also value in treating the question in a somewhat more literal sense of where in the world culture can be located. While I am of course not suggesting that I can put an end to the question of what culture is, I do believe that approaching culture from the perspective of language might be a useful way forward. To that end, I explore various global iterations of Korea in relation to the complex entanglements among language, semiotic resources, and spatial elements. Through an examination of publicly visible signage and other artifacts of the built environment, I focus on how such representational assemblages point to the possibility of national imaginaries and perhaps other cultural forms as existing not as a priori categories of cultural belonging but instead as entities that can be relocated and reinvented across global space. Rather than approaching the question of culture in the context of globalization as a mere catalogue of hybridizations as they occur in global contexts, I instead ask us to consider what such encounters can illuminate about the varied features of cultural distinctiveness that are otherwise difficult to see by approaching culture in its isolated form, but can be seen anew from a global perspective. In so doing, I outline an intellectual agenda for scholars embarking on inquiries in the sociolinguistics of global Asias.