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Title:Globalization of a U.S. community college and the politics of belonging in the time of upheaval: Remaking of race and class of Korean international community college students
Author(s):Kim, Sujung
Director of Research:Burbules, Nicholas
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Burbules, Nicholas
Doctoral Committee Member(s):McCarthy, Cameron; Darder, Antonia; Bragg, Debra; Kwon, Soo Ah
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Globalization of higher education
Neoliberal governmentality
Identity politics
Transnational and global ethnography
Neoliberal multiculturalism
Critical international multiculturalism
Community college
Korean international students
Abstract:Drawn from critical discourse analysis and a 14-month ethnographic project at a public community college in the Chicago metropolitan area, this study scrutinizes the complex mechanisms through which racial identities and class positions of lower middle- and working-class Korean international students are reshaped as they are made into transnational, adrift, cheap laborers. This study specifically examines the complicated interrelationships among (1) the emerging identity politics in neoliberal South Korea where less-profitable young adults are encouraged to leave the domestic labor market, (2) the revival of U.S. nationalistic multiculturalism embedded in educational policies and institutional practices that promote economic patriotism, and (3) the production of unmoored low-wage migrant workers in the U.S. This study found that lower middle- and working-class Korean international students’ study abroad in the US, one of the most economically advanced countries, is rather functioned as cultural politics that reposition these Korean international students as the (potential) transnational unmoored low-wage laborers who struggle with securing their lives either in Korea or the U.S. These international students increasingly identify themselves as alienated outsiders in both countries rather than as confident in their capability to act as empowered citizens. In the process of transforming these Korean international students’ subjectivities, I would argue that neoliberalism is one of the key axes which function as a global governance at macro-level and as a technology of others and self in micro-level both in Korea and the U.S. First, before their arrival in the U.S., the Korean international students in this ethnographic project were framed as depressed losers and were in the process of struggling with the sense of feeling ‘lost’ and with the ‘self-discrimination’ in their home country. The entrepreneurial Korean state unfolds a cultural politics of belonging that aims to drive these less-profitable young adults outside of its territory by converting their seemingly lack of competency into a social illness that must be removed. My study revealed that, under the conditions, Korean students embraced the dominant ideology within Korea that their belonging is determined by the neoliberal system rather than recognizing their agency in problematizing the violent social, political, and economic power structure to rearticulate their modalities of (global) social belonging in more critical ways. Second, their despair and fear of being eliminated from the labor market as the surplus and waste of neoliberal system, however, prompted them to utilize the U.S. community college system as a stepping stone to ultimately demonstrate their recovery of ‘neoliberal normalcy’ in the Korean state. Yet, the systemized institutional irresponsibility and discrimination through which U.S. imperialism, which identified these international students as inferior foreign others, interacts with the neoliberal project, and consequently reinforced these international students’ alienation. These Korean international students, whose value of existing itself is depreciated both in Korea and the U.S., chose to make uncertain deals with God to convert their ‘abnormalcy’ into ‘exceptional normalcy’ in the neoliberal regimes. They read their perceived deformed educational and lifestyles to specially individualized projects in the name of ‘God’ in return for devoting their time and works in sustaining the system of Korean immigrant churches that is a part of the unsacred God’s kingdom. In this light, these Korean international students are also the flakes which are dangerously connected and/or rested on the shoulders of the neoliberal systems and deconsecrated God. These surplus students are the products of the Korean and also the U.S. neoliberal systems but they are rejected to belong to the system as a valuable part. Instead they are barely connected to the system as educational consumers at SCC and low-wage part-time laborers at the Korean community in the U.S. In this regard, these Korean international students are becoming a part of the precariat. Through the mechanism, these students’ social identities are continuously shifting among ‘social illness’—being identified and identified themselves as being no good, ‘social autism’—be alienated and alienating themselves outside of the neoliberal systems, ‘social death’—being recognized and recognizing themselves as socially dead--, and ‘social evasion’—hoping to be invisible in the society: Rather than going through these modalities of social belonging in a linear way, these different types of belonging sometimes coexist. With their awareness of the virtual impossibility of transferring to 4-year institutions either in Korea or in the U.S., these Korean international students are inclined to choose to live as invisible Koreans within the Korean communities in the U.S. as a form of social evasion that avoids being continuously recognized as a ‘social ill’ like back in their home country. As such, these students’ initial desires to use the community college system for recognition shifted into the desire for ignorance. This change is understood as the modified strategy of these students who experienced globalization as being uprooted to sustain their individual security in the turmoil of inhumane neoliberal economic assault.
Issue Date:2017-12-08
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Sujung Kim
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-03-13
Date Deposited:2017-12

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