This dissertation explores how the contemporary Korean American and Korean diasporic literary productions imagine and respond to the nexus between the “exceptional” American empire and the exceptional juridico-political subjects it produced and managed in South Korea and across the Pacific through the prolonged Cold War. Drawing on critical biopolitical studies, this project frames the Cold War U.S. military and humanitarian interventions in Asia as neoimperialist governmentality, which not only created excessive, doubled sovereignty and states of exception but also produced and displaced exceptional subjects in the areas affected. My research on the historical, political, legal, and cultural discourses on these displaced subjects evinces that they were not simply excluded as a demographic exception to the Korean and American nation-states, but included in their Cold War geopolitics and biopolitics. This dissertation proposes that the transnational making of the exceptional Korean, Asian, or Asian American subjects through the Cold War provides key sites for understanding the transnational history and dimensions of the post-World War II formation of Asian America as it illuminates the links between U.S. foreign policy in Asia and domestic racial liberalism during the Cold War. Tracing the origin of the transpacific exceptional subjects and their transpacific links, the project also draws a genealogy of a forgotten Korean diaspora that still haunts the modernity of Korean and American nation-states. I argue that the selected cultural memories and imaginaries produced by Nora Okja Keller, Heinz Insu Fenkl, Jane Jeong Trenka, and Chang-rae Lee expose and intervene in the complex operations and technologies of U.S. sovereign biopower and governance within and across its national border and its logics of exclusion and inclusion by verbally enacting scenes of multiple subjectifications of the exceptional figures in Asia and America. Chapter by chapter, the dissertation attends to the particular conjunctures of local and global biopolitics in which the exceptional subjects emerged and were subjectified. It also demonstrates how each of these texts in a unique and experimental way disrupts the normative codifications and configurations of the exceptional empire as a global peacekeeper or humanitarian force and of the exceptional(ized) subjects as undeserving racial aliens or exceptionally deserving model citizens. Collectively, these literary texts create an aesthetics of the stateless that imagines alternative models of politics, subjectivity, and cross-national and interracial community to move beyond biopolitics and towards a decolonized future.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2016. Major: English. Advisor: Josephine Lee. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 271 pages.
Exceptional Empire and Exceptional Subjects: Biopolitics and the Transnational Making of the Korean/Asian/American through the Cold War.
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