Most of us have a sense of belonging to a region or nation that’s physically beyond our capacity to experience it firsthand. Yet, as Benedict Anderson describes in Imagined Communities, a host of media creations and communication technologies overcome that distance and integrate us into a coherent political entity like a nation. The Pop West research project analysed a range of popular media–film, music, radio, television, storytelling, maps and novels–to explore how different political formations come to popularise and understand their own wests.

The Pop West Project began in late 2013 when researchers from the University of Western Australia and the US Studies Centre began discussing the role that popular culture plays in our understanding of political geography. In 2014, the newly-established Perth USAsia Centre provided seed-funding to propel this exciting new research inquiry.

This symposium was a presentation of a series of panel papers and lectures on the issue of how political geographies are mediated by the popular imagination. The symposium offered a special triangulation of Australian, Chinese and American wests, suggesting that the west is a migrating geographic and cultural concept.