Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Book talk: "Making Visible the Unseen: Memory and Reconciliation in Divided Korea" by Dr. Nan Kim, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Mon, May 2, 2016 | GAR 4.100

3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Dr. Nan Kim (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2007) is associate professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Her research interests include Divided Korea, cultural and political anthropology, contemporary history of East Asia, cultural politics of war memory, family and kinship, and cosmopolitanism.  Dr. Kim’s article: “Korea on the Brink: Reading the Yŏnp’yŏng Shelling and its Aftermath," was published in the Journal of Asian Studies, 70:2 (May 2011). She teaches on Modern East Asia, social and cultural history, global Cold War, Korean War, family, and gender. 

At this talk, Dr. Kim will discuss her book Memory, Reconciliation, and Reunions in South Korea: Crossing the Divide(Lexington Books, 2015). The book explores the multi-layered implications of divided Korea’s liminality, or its perceived “in-betweenness” in space and time. Offering a timely reconsideration of the pivotal period following the Inter-Korean Summit of June 2000, this book focuses on a series of emotionally charged meetings among family members who had lost all contact for more than fifty years on opposite sides of the Korean divide. With the scope of its analysis ranging from regional geopolitics and watershed political rituals to everyday social dynamics and intimate family narratives, this study provides a lens for approaching the cultural process of moving from a disposition of enmity to one of recognition and engagement amid the complex legacies of civil war and the global Cold War on the Korean Peninsula.

Dr. Kim’s faculty profile page:


Book reviews:

“Nan Kim’s study of the place and significance of reunions of Korean families still divided by the unending Korean War is nothing less than subtle majesty. Kim interrogates the political whys and hows involved in these heavily publicized moments with deep sensitivity to the painfully lived and physically embodied reality of division for these families. She raises, moreover, the disturbing truth that many of these reunions have ‘unsettled’ the meaning of war death on both sides of the 38th parallel, with family members long mourned as dead suddenly alive and on the other side. Her message is profoundly disquieting; her prose is elegant and clear.” 
— ALEXIS DUDDEN, University of Connecticut

“This is the finest book I know on the intricate politics and social situation of separated Korean families. Relying ably on a mix of historical and ethnographic methods, and drawing on perspectives ranging from ritual theory to psychoanalytic treatments of mourning, Kim moves from the origins of family separation before and during the Korean War and the political classifications it entailed, to various attempts to reunite such families across the North-South divide. This book culminates with an on-the-spot examination of the series of reunions that began in the year 2000, at a moment of hope for broader inter-Korean rapprochement, which Kim persuasively argues was also a crucial event in the reckoning of national kinship. In turns critical, analytically innovative, and moving, Kim’s work deserves to be read by every student of the modern Koreas.” 
— ROBERT OPPENHEIM, University of Texas at Austin

Free and open to the public. RSVP required. To RSVP and receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper, please email Courtneyby 9 a.m., Friday, April 29.


Sponsored by: Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History; Department of Asian Studies; POSCO Chair in Korean Studies Endowment

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