The Intimacies of ConflictCultural Memory and the Korean War

The Intimacies of ConflictCultural Memory and the Korean War

Daniel Y. Kim

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781479800797

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

Though known primarily in the United States as “the forgotten war,” the Korean War was a watershed event that fundamentally reshaped both domestic conceptions of race and the interracial dimensions of US imperial endeavors as they took shape during the Cold War. The Intimacies of Conflictworks against the historical erasure of this event first by returning us to the 1950s, revealing the emotionally compelling dramas of interracial and transnational intimacy that were staged around this event in Hollywood films and journalistic accounts. Through detailed analyses of such works, this book illuminates how the Korean War enabled the emergence of not just a military multiculturalism but also a military Orientalism and a humanitarian Orientalism: cultural logics that purported to make surgical distinctions between Asians who were allies and those who were legitimately killable. This book also demonstrates how an emergent tradition of US novels, primarily by authors of color, provides an exemplary assemblage of cultural memory, illuminating the intimacies that join and divide the histories of Asian American, African American, and Chicanx/Latinx subjects, as well as Korean and Chinese subjects. Novels by eminent US writers like Susan Choi, Chang-rae Lee, Rolando Hinojosa, and Toni Morrison and the South Korean author Hwang Sok-yong speak to the trauma experienced by civilians and combatants while also evoking an expansive web of complicity in war’s violence. Drawing together both comparative race and transnational American studies approaches, this study engages in a multifaceted ethical and political reckoning with the Korean War’s unended status.