Belfer Case Study Room (S020), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, MA 02138
SBS Distinguished Lecture in the Social Sciences
Hyun Mee Kim Professor and Chair of the Department of Cultural Anthropology, Yonsei University
Hyun Mee Kim is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Cultural Anthropology and the core faculty member for the Graduate Program in Culture and Gender Studies. Her research interests include gender, migration, critical cultural theories, urban and human ecology and globalization and labor. She has written articles on diverse migrants coming to South Korea including marriage migrants, asylum seekers and economic migrants. Her current research is on the formation of the therapeutic self and the emergence of city meditators in South Korea. She is the author of Cultural Translation in a Global Era (2005) and We Always Leave Home: Becoming Migrants in South Korea (2014), and co-edited Intimate Enemy: How Neoliberalism Has Become Our Everyday Lives (2010), and We Are All People with Differences: Towards Multiculturalism for Co-existence (2013). She was a Committee Member for the Division of Human Rights for Foreigners, National Human Rights Commission of Korea (2008-2010) and is a member of the Forum on Human Rights for Migrant Women in South Korea.
Chaired byNicholas Harkness, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University
Abstract: The lecture analyzes how contemporary Korean women experience “gender” in their places of unstable employment by developing new ways of producing intimacy (or “fake” intimacy) and affective bonds with their co-workers. Their attention to intimacy is a dual reflection of the impact of neoliberal precarity on Korean young women and Korean feminism’s critique of marriage as an institution of the state. I focus on working women who have incorporated feminist ideas that demystify heterosexual norms and marriage. These ideas have recently materialized as the “4 non-” campaign and the “escape the corset” movement. The “4 non-” (non-marriage, non-birth, non-relationship and non-sex) campaign in particular has emerged in online forums as one of the most radical forms of gender politics in South Korea. However, young women who constantly change jobs need to perform—and invite—intimacy by presenting cheerful, motivated, and exaggerated feminine versions of themselves to co-workers. Drawing on extensive interviews with young working women, this presentation shows how Korean women negotiate the tensions and challenges of work, the performed self, and feminist politics to gain corporate citizenship and financial independence.