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Black and Korean: Racialized Development and the Korean American Subject in Korean/American Fiction

Abstract

This article examines the representation of the encounters and exchanges between Asian and black Americans in Sŏk-kyŏng Kang’s “Days and Dreams,” Heinz Insu Fenkl’s Memories of My Ghost Brother, and Chang-rae Lee’s A Gesture Life. While one popular mode of looking at Asian and black Americans relationally in the postwar era is to compare the success of Asian American assimilation to the failure of black Americans, Lim argues that such a mode of comparison cannot account for the ways in which Asian American racialization takes places within the global currents of militarism and migration. Against the popular view that attributes Asian American success to cultural difference, Lim relies on political scientist Claire Kim’s understanding of culture as something that is constructed in the process of racialization to explore how the above texts imagine the terms of comparative racialization between black and Asian Americans. The black-Korean encounters in these texts demand a heuristic of comparative racialization that goes beyond the discussion of the black-white binary as a national construct and seeks the reification and modification of this racial frame as it travels along the routes of US military and economic incursions in the Pacific. Lim suggests that the literary imagining of black-Korean encounters across the Pacific illustrates race and racialization as effects of a regime of economic development that is supported by military aggression.

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