Visualizing race : neoliberal multiculturalism and the struggle for Koreanness in contemporary South Korean television

Date
2013-08
Authors
Ahn, Ji-Hyun
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Abstract

"Visualizing Race: Neoliberal Multiculturalism and the Struggle for Koreanness in Contemporary South Korean Television" investigates visual representations of multicultural subjects in both celebrity culture and the reality television genre to examine the struggle for Koreanness in contemporary Korean television. My aim is to explain the transformation from a modern monoracial Korea to a multicultural, global Korea as a national project of what I call "neoliberal multiculturalism" and to problematize the implicit tie between the two words, "neoliberal" and "multiculturalism." Using the category of mixed-race as an analytical window onto this cultural shift, I attempt to link the recent explosion of multiculturalism discourse in Korea to the much larger cultural, institutional, and ideological implications of racial globalization. To illustrate this shift, the dissertation analyzes both black and white mixed-race celebrities as well as ordinary multicultural subjects appearing on Korean reality programs. I examine historical archives, popular press sources, policy documents, and television programs in order to analyze them as an inter-textual network that is actively negotiating national identity. Utilizing the concept of neoliberal multiculturalism as an overarching framework, the dissertation explicates how concepts such as nationality, race, gender, class, and the television genre are intricately articulated; it also critically deconstructs the hegemonic notion of a multicultural, global Korea presented by the Korean media. I argue that Korean television deploys racial representations as a way to suture national anxiety over an increasing number of racial others and projects a multicultural fantasy towards Koreans. This interdisciplinary project contributes to several fields of study by explicating the changed cultural meaning of mixed-race in the age of globalization, defining the organic relation between the medium of television and racial representation, broadening our understanding of Asian multiculturalism and the racial politics in the region, and examining the particulars of ethnic nationalism appearing in the Korean media and popular culture.

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