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Creating Lives in Perpetual State of Exception in (post)Colonial Japan

Sat, June 25, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 105


This paper examines the life-making processes for Korean in Japan or “Zainichi Koreans,” with a particular focus on those who are affiliated with the Korean school communities operated by a pro-North Korean organization. With the U.S. designation of North Korea as part of “axis of evil” and the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s admission of abductions of Japanese civilians by North Korean agents, bodies and spaces affiliated with North Korea have become increasingly racialized as “(potential) terrorists” not only in Japan but also in South Korea in the last decade. Amidst state sanctions, mass media misrepresentation and racist hate crimes, Korean schools continue to not only survive but thrive, and try to create lives in the space rendered “socially dead.” Ethnographic observation and in-depth interviews reveal that Korean school community members employ various political and cultural strategies that are seemingly contradictory and abrupt in order to protect the schools -which many that I interviewed referred to as their kohyang [home]. They are simultaneously engaging in politics of recognition to secure recognition and resources by conforming themselves into Japanese multiculturalism framework while refusing to be fully transparent and intelligible to the broader Japanese society to preserve autonomy over their education. Remaining in the interstitial space between colonized and decolonized, citizen and foreigner, and ally and enemy, I argue that Zainichi Koreans pose a radical alternative to imaging a “minority politics” that goes beyond a nation-state framework and a “rights-based” approach.