Beijing Parallax: Manifestations of Thirdspace in the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

By Steven A. Nardi and Munehito Moro.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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In “The Parallax View” (2006), Slavoj Žižek identifies a class of social antagonisms as a “traumatic kernel, a fundamental antagonism” that escapes symbolization (24). These antagonisms can be glimpsed only through internal contradictions. They serve to hold the society in a state of tension, neither completely disrupted, nor allowed to stabilize.
We use Žižek’s framework to investigate the tensions underling Beijing’s physical and psychical remapping, and, in particular, we use the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics as evidence for the emergence in Beijing of a third cartography of the city, one that has overwritten the Imperial and Maoist organizations of city space. This third mapping corresponds to Soja’s definition of “thirdspace” in that it represents a space where the city’s history is thoroughly subsumed into a system of global image making. The ceremony completes a process where the city becomes identified with its filmic image.
The apparent success of the modernization of Beijing, a success which animates the ceremony, might seem to promise a continuous flow linking the old to the new. But that continuity is better understood as the continuity created by a nostalgia film. It is the triumphant conversion of history into easily consumable imagery fit for consumption in what Rey Chow calls the “global regime of value making.”

Keywords: Beijing, Film, Olympics, Ideology, Parallax

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.9-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 759.979KB).

Dr. Steven A. Nardi

Assistant Professor, Department of English, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA

Steven A. Nardi, an Assistant Professor at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, earned his BA in English at New York University, and his PhD in American Literature at Princeton University. His dissertation, titled “Automatic Aesthetics: Poetry, Race and Technology in the American New Poetry and the Harlem Renaissance,” analyzed the use of images of technological objects in American poetry of the 1910s and 1920s. He has published on Langston Hughes, Maxine Kumin, Countee Cullen, and other American poets, and is currently writing a book titled The Stars Pulled Down: American Poetry and Technology from 1904-1932. In 2009/2010 he spent a year at Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan, on a Fulbright.

Munehito Moro

Student, Department of Liberal Arts, International Christian University, Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Munehito Moro studied literary criticism at the University of Tokyo from 2002 to 2005. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s degree at International Christian University in Tokyo. His thesis will be titled “Emerging Asia: Chinese Nostalgia Films and the Consumption of Asian Culture.” This thesis focuses upon the proliferation of nostalgia films in Asian countries, especially in China after it opened its market. His current academic interest is in the relations between globalization and neo-liberal economy and their impact upon film culture. He is to pursue his Ph.D in the field of media studies.