New writing: “Placing Infrastructure,” Korean Anthropology Review (2023)

I contributed a short commentary essay for the latest issue of Korean Anthropology Review: A journal of Korean anthropology in translation. “Placing Infrastructure” engages with a translation of Seo Dae-Seung’s article, “The Reproduction of Growth-Oriented Churches: Korean American Churches and the Politics of Infrastructure” that was originally published in 『비교문화연구』 [Cross-cultural studies] 25(2): 103–143. Both the article and my commentary are free to download.

It’s been a while since I engaged with the topic of megachurches, but I have long been interested in thinking critically about church parking lots, especially Church Y that’s discussed in this article, a well known, controversial case in Los Angeles Koreatown. (Many of you would know exactly which church this is about.) This is how I concluded the commentary:

It would have been important for Church Y to rise to the challenge of becoming a valued and active member of the local community rather than an exclusive private membership club. Instead, Church Y became a landowner and real estate developer, a force behind displacing low income seniors and opposing housing justice and anti gentrification efforts. What is perhaps most interesting about the parking lot controversy at Church Y is that the church diminished itself to function as a mere parking lot—useful only when occupied by personal vehicles, for a mere fraction of the 24 hour clock. For the rest of the time, like a parking lot, the church remains unused and useless, irrelevant to nearby residents who are disallowed access. What remains to be seen is how this infrastructure might be reimagined and transformed in the coming years.

Korean Anthropology Review is an unusual journal, and I very much support its vision and editorial leadership under Prof. Olga Fedorenko. Published by the Department of Anthropology at Seoul National University, KAR is designed to introduce “Korean anthropological scholarship to international audiences, by carrying English translations of Korean-language articles previously published in Korean anthropology journals. KAR selects from the finest anthropological research by Korean anthropologists that builds on their particular concerns and intellectual heritage yet is open to global engagement” (quoted from About KAR).