This project positions Korean adoptees as transnational citizens at intersections within race relations in the United States, as emblems of international geopolitical relationships between the United States and South Korea, and as empowered actors, organizing to take control of racial and cultural discourses about Korean adoption. I make connections between transnational exchanges, American race relations, and Asian American experiences. I argue that though the contradictory experience of Korean adoptees, at once inside and outside bounded racial and national categories of "Asian," "White," "Korean," and "American," the limits of these categories may be explored and critiqued. In understanding Korean adoptees as transnational subjects, single-axis racial and national identity are challenged, where individuals have access to membership and/or face exclusion in more than one political or cultural nation. In addition, this work demonstrates the effects of American political and cultural imperialism both abroad and domestically, by elucidating how the acts of empire-building nations are mapped onto individuals though the regulation of immigration and family formation. My methods are interdisciplinary, drawing from traditions that include ethnography, primary historical sources, and literature. My dissertation work uses Korean adoptees' own life stories that I have collected and recorded in three locations: 1) Minnesota, home to the largest concentration of Korean adoptees in the U.S.; 2) the Pacific Northwest, home to the many of the "first wave" of the oldest living Korean adoptees now in their 40s and 50s; and, 3) Seoul, Korea, home to hundreds of adult Korean adoptees who have traveled back to South Korea to live and work. In addition, I use Korean adoptee published narratives, archive materials documenting the early history of transnational adoption, and secondary sources in sociology, social work, psychology and cultural studies to uncover the many layers of national, racial and cultural belonging and significance for and of Korean adoptees.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2009. Major: American Studies. Advisor: Erika Lee. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 487 pages
Park Nelson, Kim Ja.
Korean looks, American eyes: Korean American adoptees, race, culture and nation..
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