DescriptionThe objective of this dissertation is to explore the historical, material, and discursive realities of Korean women in the sex trade in U.S. camptowns.
With the use of political ethnography, I draw on a wide range of sources such as textual literature, films, first-hand qualitative interviews, and participant observation.
I make three major arguments: First, the existence of Amerasians and women in the sex trade in the camptowns has always been a polemic issue because it destabilizes the imagined and naturalized national identity which is constituted by the familial state and a biologically essentialist definition of race. In spite of the binary focus on nation and gender, two main strands of discourse -feminist rhetoric and nationalist narratives- have shared class based views on the women in the sex trade. Second, contrasting the public’s imaginations of the sex trade in terms of liaisons with foreign nationals, the women’s own narratives and life histories are centered on labor and reinhabitation (of the world). The construction of their life experiences demonstrates that 1) the practice of sex trade is not a question of sex but is on the continuum of other informal works; 2) being subject to victimization at one stage of their lives does not mean that their identities are permanently defined as victims. In re-narrating their lives and work experiences, this dissertation suggests an alternative view on the basis of such terms as “poisonous knowledge” and “abundance from hard labor.” Third, the oppression of women is daily and intersectional/multiple. The act of speech is not identical to voice. Thus, the women often employ unlikely forms of subversions including silence and social distance on a daily basis rather than establishing an open and assertive form of resistance.