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Title:Visuality and the transnational urban space: Koreatown, Los Angeles
Author(s):Kim, Soo Mee
Director of Research:Bayat, Asef
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bayat, Asef
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Liao, Tim F.; Denzin, Norman; Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Urban sociology
Ethnic enclave
Ethnic entrepreneurship
Korean American
Los Angeles
Local politics
Political sociology
Transnational community
Immigrant community
Korean immigrant
Abstract:Through an ethnographic study (semi-structured interviews, participant observation, photography, and archival research) of Koreatown in Los Angeles, I examine how visuality and countervisuality influence the transnational urban space of Koreatown, Los Angeles. Based on Nicholas Mirzoeff’s (2011) concepts of visuality and countervisuality, and by incorporating perspectives of globalization, specifically treatment of cities under globalization, the study shows how the construction of the space itself is both the result and could be the catalyst for production of power for its transnational and immigrant communities as well as for other, often more powerful, networks of power that are able to harness it. There is a dialectical relationship between construction of space and production of power intensified by the intersectionality of the transnational and immigrant communities. An examination of the transnational history of Korean migration and the transnational political activities that shaped the Korean and Korean American communities shows Koreatown to be constructed and is continuously shaped through these transnational movements and moments. Understanding how visuality manifests in Koreatown illustrates how powerful entities in Koreatown and Los Angeles have and continues to impose control over shaping the space, often for their own benefit regardless of the demands of the communities in Koreatown. They change the shape of Koreatown and effectively control how Koreatown is seen, exerting power politically and financially to cultivate, sustain, and legitimize their authority, while harnessing the increasing value of the spaces fueled by Koreatown’s spatial identity. The process of the increasing creation of value of Koreatown is evidenced in countervisuality, as a result of how it manifests in Koreatown. The transnational and immigrant communities such as the Korean and Korean American communities work to assert their right to look and right to be seen through constructing a consumable space which could lead to a claimable space, which then can help accumulate a political voice for the communities. Through these discussions the study demonstrates that countervisuality and visuality do not necessarily work as binaries. Incorporating transnational and immigrant communities of color as actors and part of the subjects of study, the binary of powerful and powerless, which dominate in the discourse of visuality and countervisuality, becomes muddier and even further stratified. Together, these findings propose that the transnationality shaping and permeating through the space is in turn shaped and perpetuated by the local constructions of the space, and as it becomes a claimable space, Koreatown can be a source of production of power for its various transnational and immigrant communities.
Issue Date:2017-04-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Soo Mee Kim
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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