Performing on the Situated Global Stages: Comparing the Cosmopolitan Visions and Sustainable Future Scenarios Proposed in Shanghai and Milan Expos

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Chia-ling LAI, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan
As an emergent global mega-event, World Expo not only performs globality and cosmopolitanism under the competing international frameworks, but also provides creative scenarios for future societies. Current researches on global events (Luke, 1998; Roche, 2000; Urry, 2003, 2010) tend to emphasis on the shaping of globality neglecting the situated perspectives. Drawing upon theories of global events, cosmopolitanism and Haraway’s situated knowledge, this paper argues for ‘situated cosmopolitan visions and future scenarios’ by comparing two current World Expos in 2010 Shanghai and 2015 Milan.

2010 Shanghai Expo—themed by city and sustainability—multiply centered China, Mid-East and Europe on the global symbolic orders through spectacular architectures, sustainable designs and branded cultures. Its sustainable future scenarios were more based on commodity aesthetics and technological advancements. 2015 Milan Expo—themed by sustainable food culture—emphasizes loosely on the global symbolic orders, though the newly emergent European countries stand out and less developed Africa and South-east Asia organized through clustering representations. Its alternative future scenarios emphasize more retrospectively with local and natural wisdoms.

Based on field observations and spatial textual analysis on exhibitions and media representations, this research makes three comparisons of the two World Expos. Firstly, it examines the world symbolic order made in the two Expos; Secondly, it explores how the Expo themes have been articulated to demonstrate their sustainable future scenarios; Thirdly, it reflexively examines the materiality based representations in the Expos in hyper-real postmodern era (Harvey, 1996; Eco, 1987) when competing with other media in the time of refugees and financial hardship. It concludes that Expos should be considered as ‘situated global stages’ performing situated cosmopolitan visions with emergent future scenarios of the host countries and regions.