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Strategic Displacements: Narratives of Transnational Adoption and the Unending Korean War

Strategic Displacements: Narratives of Transnational Adoption and the Unending Korean War

Film Screening and Colloquium:
Co-sponsored by the Department of East Asian Studies, Korean Studies Colloquium, and the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU

Film Screening:

The Woman, the Orphan, and the Tiger followed by discussion with Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

Time: Monday, Oct. 17, 6:30-8:30 pm
Place: 41 East 11th Street, 7th Floor, Room 741

The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger follows a group of international adoptees and other women of the Korean Diaspora in their twenties and thirties. It explores the ways in which trauma is passed on from previous generations to the present through a sense of being haunted. The physical return of the Diaspora confronts and de-stabilizes narratives that have been constructed to systematically silence histories of injustice committed onto certain parts of the population in South Korea. A genealogy is created by relating the stories of three generations of women: the former comfort women who were subjected to military sexual slavery by the Japanese military between World War I and II, the approximately one million women who have worked as sex-workers around US military bases in South Korea from the nineteen fifties to the present, and the estimated two hundred thousand children who were adopted from South Korea to the West since the nineteen fifties. The film exposes how military and patriarchal violence against women and children became central in geopolitical negotiations between South Korea, the United States, and Japan, and how this part of world history has been systematically silenced, but reverberates in the present moment.


Strategic Displacements: Narratives of Transnational Adoption and the Unending Korean War

Time: Tuesday evening, Oct. 18, 6:30-8:30 pm
Place: 41 East 11th Street, 7th Floor, Room 741

Since 1952, an estimated 200,000 Korean adoptees have been sent to 14 mainly western receiving nations, and as such, they comprise the world’s largest and oldest continuously occurring child displacement with roots in Cold War politics and U.S. militarism. Although in recent years South Korea has reformed its adoption laws alongside its promotion of domestic placements, South Korea continues to socially orphan and to send overseas an estimated 2-3 children every day. From 1995-2005, 1 in 3 Korean adoptees have searched for their families but less than 2.7 percent have reunited. Despite this low success rate, these searches have served as “birth search pedagogy” revealing how adoptees were created through an intricate bureaucracy aimed at the expeditious export of social welfare, and instructing adoptee community on how to navigate it for information access. As community advocacy, birth search pedagogy has facilitated adoptee coalition building with Korean unwed mothers and birth mothers, whose labor in light export industries powered South Korea’s “miracle on the Han River,” in order to demand care for transgressive kinship structures. This presentation considers the libratory potential of birth search pedagogy as a way to resist the affective legacies of the Unending War and to clarify the stakes in resisting new uses of overseas adoption that instrumentalize it to prosecute the war.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is assistant professor of English and director of American Racial and Multicultural Studies at St. Olaf College and a Korea Policy Institute fellow. Currently, she is working with the Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association on an essay collection about unwed mothers’ realities.

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** SPRING 2017 EVENTS **

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