I returned a few days ago from givingÂ a talkÂ in the Program in Transnational Korean Studies at the University of California, San Diego. What a treat it was to get away from the deep freeze inÂ Toronto (-24Â°C on the day I left) and bask for a few days in the warm Southern California sun. I gasped at the variety of fresh produce at a farmers’ marketÂ in posh historic neighbourhoods with impeccably manicured lawns and went joggingÂ alongÂ the bustling path around the empty Silverlake Reservoir. I sipped overpriced cold brew coffee from hip cafÃ©sÂ and sharedÂ delicious meals with old friendsÂ in Koreatown, Thai Town, and Highland Park. I was especially blown away atÂ La Cevicheria, a new favourite. Sadly and typically, I traveled withÂ a pile of work — student papers to grade and conference abstracts to submit, articles to revise and lectures to prepare — but Southern CaliforniaÂ was a welcome change of scenery.
I had never visited UCSD before — now UC Merced remainsÂ theÂ only UC campus I haven’tÂ seen. The talk I gaveÂ wasÂ titled “How Pink Turned Red: Korean Christianity and Queer Geopolitics,” and it’s a fullerÂ version of a paper I gave at invited lectures and conferences at Harvard, UBC, OSU, York (Toronto), Barnard, and at EHESS in Paris last year. These talks have spawned three separate papers, actually: a Korean-language article that was published in Munhwa/Kwahak a few months ago, a forthcoming piece in Barnard’s The Scholar & Feminist Online, and a journal articleÂ I’m finishing up soon. Fantastic questions afterwards from UCSD faculty and students, many of whom areÂ already engaged in queer studies and activism. I am presenting this talkÂ once more at Binghamton University in early March, and then I’ll send it offÂ for publication.
Here’s the poster with a goofy picture.
Abstract: Whether referred to as â€˜LGBTIâ€™ in coalitional terms of identity politics or â€˜sexual minorityâ€™ to emphasize relations of solidarity among marginalized communities, queer activistÂ movements in South Korea urge expression of non-normative gender and sexual identity and recognition of dissident political subjectivity. Though queer activism has become moreÂ legible in the broad and vibrant social movment landscape, it also faces intensified religious and institutional homophobia in the political sphere, most prominently represented by theÂ largely Protestant-led opposition to basic human rights and anti-discrimination policies. Drawing from ongoing research on the transnational infrastructure of conservativeÂ Korean/American Christianity and the cultural politics of racial and sexual difference, this talk takes as a starting point the rhetorical figure of chongbuk geiÂ ì¢…ë¶ê²Œì´ (North Korea-sympathizing queer), an epithet deployed by homophobic Protestants to conjure Cold War anticommunism in conflating sexual perversion with political subversion. It is aÂ preposterous yet productive figure of queer abjection, I argue, that reveals not only the legacy of geopolitical insecurity and Christian ethnonationalism but also encapsulates the stakesÂ of queer dissent and critical solidarity.