On the Korean War and Diasporic Memory CritiqueCrystal Mun-hye Baik
In Reencounters, Crystal Mun-hye Baik examines what it means to live with and remember an ongoing war when its manifestations—hypervisible and deeply sensed—become everyday formations delinked from militarization. Contemplating beyond notions of inherited trauma and postmemory, Baik offers the concept of reencounters to better track the Korean War’s illegible entanglements through an interdisciplinary archive of diasporic memory works that includes oral history projects, performances, and video installations rarely examined by Asian American studies scholars.
Baik shows how Korean refugee migrations are repackaged into celebrated immigration narratives, how transnational adoptees are reclaimed by the South Korean state as welcomed “returnees,” and how militarized colonial outposts such as Jeju Island are recalibrated into desirable tourist destinations. Baik argues that as the works by Korean and Korean/American artists depict this Cold War historiography, they also offer opportunities to remember otherwise the continuing war.
Ultimately, Reencounters wrestles with questions of the nature of war, racial and sexual violence, and neoliberal surveillance in the twenty-first century.
“ Crystal Baik’s Reencounters offers a vital archive of desire, violence, silence, and decolonial possibility while crafting a much-needed critical framework for thinking and feeling through the diasporic memory work of contemporary Korean/American artists and cultural producers. Reencounters effectively challenges and dismantles conventional historiographies of the Korean War and its ambiguous legacies as it opens distinctively new and important territory for analyzing not only perpetual war and militarized violence but also the normalization of displacement and sovereign exception. Baik’s profound and necessary insights will resonate across Asian American studies, feminist studies, ethnic studies, and cultural studies.”
—Eleana Kim, University of California, Irvine, author of Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging
“ Formidably interdisciplinary, Reencounters offers invaluable analytics for discerning radical justice and alternative ways of relating to the past. Clarifying that the Korean War is an event that defies many historical and international conventions, and demonstrating how constitutive it is to the U.S. Cold War empire even in disavowal, Baik’s remarkable insights illuminate the material endurance of post/colonial militarized violence that is normalized into the everyday. Yet all the while, by insisting that we can nonetheless perceive the aesthetic practices of the queer(ed) diasporic memories of the war as inassimilable, Baik fiercely challenges the inevitability of history.”
—Lisa Yoneyama, University of Toronto, author of Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes
"Baik grapples with familial losses, popular (lack of) knowledge, and U.S.-centric representations that render North Korea as unknown/unknowable, as object of militarized and tourist gazes, and a blank canvas on which to project U.S. fantasies of democratic and capitalist progress and success.... Her scholarly treatments of Korean diasporic memory work instead to vividly remember the ways in which the Korean War is ongoing and a structuring force on the peninsula as well as globally.... Reencounters indexes the omnipresent threat of rekindled violence on the peninsula and showcases that Koreans— in the South, in the North, and in diaspora—have not survived the war but endure it."
—Pacific Historical Review