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Title:Yellow over black: the precolonial and colonial history of race in Korea, 1883-1945
Author(s):Kim, Jae-Kyun
Director of Research:Jung, Moon-Kie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Jung, Moon-Kie
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz; Dill, Brian; Kim, Jungwon
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Japanese Empire
Abstract:This dissertation discloses that anti-Blackness and other deeply held notions of race in precolonial and colonial Korea (1883-1945) were pivotal in how Koreans made sense of their vulnerability and, later, subjection to colonization and of their supposed "temporary" backwardness on the path to civilization as well as independence. First, during the precolonial period (1883-1910), Koreans constructed imagined racial inferiors, especially Blacks and American Indians, without their corporeal presence, and in doing so centrally shaped Korean racial identity from its beginning. By proposing the concept of the colonially vulnerable to call attention to the positions and outlooks of peoples and states that were susceptible to foreign rule in the age of empire, as well as drawing on the insights of W.E.B. Du Bois, this dissertation thereby reveals how Koreans rendered Blacks and American Indians peoples without history, along with the subsequent relation to racial slavery and its afterlife. Second, under the militaristic rules (1910–1919) of the Japanese Empire, in contrast to the assumption that race was not significant in colonial Korea due to racial akin-ness between the colonizer and the colonized, the Japanese colonial regime was forced to embrace the racial similarity discourse, risking their imagined superiority, and to criticize anti-Blackness in the United States in order to establish the colonial legitimacy over the pro-U.S. sentiment of the colonized leading back to the precolonial period. Meanwhile, though colonization put Koreans on the same footing as their imagined racial inferiors who were destined to be enslaved or extinct per their imagined construction, Koreans’ anti-Blackness and racial hierarchy persisted as revealed, for instance, in the unnoticed racial subtext of the Declaration of Independence. Third, even though colonial Korea under the cultural rules (1919–1937) has often been regarded as a period of discursive shift since anti-racism discourse seemed to prevail on the surface, this dissertation further reveals that the period should be examined through the "deep schemas" of racism even without racial contestations and policies. As opposed to shallow anti-racism ideology, the deep schemas of anti-Blackness and racial hierarchy were transposed into different extra-racial schemas. From the most controversial discourse of national reconstruction to aspects of everyday life such as intimate desire and intra-Korean relationships, these schemas of anti-Blackness provided Koreans with the guidelines for perceiving and interacting with their perceived racial inferiors, especially Blacks, as well as the symbolic inferiority of Blackness. Fourth, during the wartime empire (1937-1945) which has often been characterized by the "polite racism" of the Japanese Empire mainly due to the wartime needs and the tenet of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere against white supremacy, Koreans, who would have internalized the colonial tenet, persistently relied on anti-Blackness. Furthermore, though the current racism against Southeast Asians in South Korea has been considered as something new independent of anti-Blackness, this dissertation further reveals how anti-Blackness in colonial Korea was transposed into racism against Southeast Asians as the Japanese Empire annexed the region by demonstrating how their imagined backwardness was constructed vis-à-vis that of Blacks by Koreans. Finally, this dissertation concludes with several post-independence stories of anti-Blackness leading up to contemporary Korea by implying the continuing significance of anti-Blackness beyond the precolonial and colonial eras.
Issue Date:2017-04-20
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Jae Kyun Kim
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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