Imperial Citizens: Koreans and Race from Seoul to LA

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Asians and Latinos comprise the vast majority of contemporary immigrants to the United States, and their growing presence has complicated America's prevailing White-Black race hierarchy. Imperial Citizens uses a global framework to investigate how Asians from U.S.-dominated homelands learn and understand their place along U.S. color lines. With interviews and ethnographic observations of Koreans, the book does what others rarely do: venture to the immigrants' home country and analyze racism there in relation to racial hierarchies in the United States.

Attentive to history, the book considers the origins, nature, and extent of racial ideas about Koreans/Asians in relation to White and Black Americans, investigating how immigrants engage these ideas before they depart for the United States, as well as after they arrive. The author shows that contemporary globalization involves not just the flow of capital, but also culture. Ideas about American color lines and citizenship lines have crossed oceans alongside U.S. commodities.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In the process of analyzing Korean and American racial ideologies, Kim uses a well-developed theoretical framework. . . . Kim's research and analysis offers a fresh perspective within the field and provide a strong reminder of the power that keeps 'racial concepts' firmly tied to the structures of superiority justification."—Jeong Duk, Asian Anthropology

"I cannot overstate the many contributions of this book and its elegant treatment of nuanced arguments at the cutting edge of debates in the study of race, immigration, and globalization . . . In sum, Imperial Citizens is a sophisticated yet accessible book and would be excellent material for undergraduate and graduate courses in studies of immigration, race and ethnicity, and globalization. It is fluidly written, meticulously researched, and convincingly argued."—Miliann Kang, Journal of International Migration and Integration

"Nadia Kim writes cogently and compellingly about Korean and Korean American attitudes, beliefs, and concerns about race, gender, and much more. In providing a transnational and historical perspective, Imperial Citizens is a model of enlightened and engaged scholarship." —John Lie, University of California, Berkeley

"In a compelling analysis of the varied ways that racial categories and racial meanings are formed in both South Korea and the United States, Nadia Kim expands ourunderstanding of how race 'travels.' She demonstrates the global, hegemonic reach of U.S. racial ideology and captures the ways Korean American immigrants position themselves in distinctive racial contexts. Attentive to class, gender, and generational differences, Kim shows us how Korean Americans come to learn, and to resist, dominant patterns of racialization." —Michael Omi, University of California, Berkeley

"A masterful demonstration of the globalization of white racism! Nadia Kim's interviews with Korean immigrants and their children reveal integral links between U.S. global hegemony and immigration. This book depicts the human tragedy of Korean American hyper-conformity in a nation that perpetuates white supremacy: preference for white beauty leading to plastic surgery; women preferring white men who exoticize or abuse them; and Korean internalization of white-racist attitudes toward Americans of color." —Joe R. Feagin, Texas A&M University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804758871
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2008
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Nadia Y. Kim is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Loyola Marymount University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     xi
Note on Terminology     xiii
Acknowledgments     xv
Introduction: Imperial Racialization     1
Ethnonationality, "Race," and Color: The Foundation     23
Racialization in South Korea, Part I: Koreans and White America     44
Racialization in South Korea, Part II: Koreans and White-Black America     83
Navigating the Racial Terrain of Los Angeles and the United States     115
Korean Americans Walk the Line of Color and Citizenship     138
Visibly Foreign (and Invisible) Subjects: Battling Prejudice and Racism     168
Second-Generation "Foreign Model Minorities": Battling Prejudice and Racism     199
Transnational Feedback: Racial Lessons from Korean America     223
Postlude     242
Research Methods-Working in the Transnational Field     255
Notes     273
Bibliography     283
Index     305
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