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Seen Through the Camera Obscura: Cold War Anxiety, Masculine Nationalism, and the Korean War in Life Photographs

Junghyun Hwang, Sogang University / Korea Colloquium Series

Tuesday, October 05, 2010
3:00 PM
11377 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

By scrutinizing a set of journalistic photographs about the Korean War from the Life magazine including David Duncan’s photo-essay book This Is War! (1951), this paper examines the ways in which American culture of the 1950s was constituted in the contestatory imagined terrain of the Korean War. The war was represented in American popular imagination through a trope of marriage, but this vision of domestic alliance was haunted by a sense of anxiety – a contradictory image of love plagued with a threat of death. I argue that this paradox of alliance was symptomatic of American Cold War nationalism, which was premised upon the recuperation of white masculine hegemony through the representational incorporation of others. Korea functioned not only as a cultural geography, through which Cold War politics of inclusivity was translated for popular consumption, but also as “a terra incognita,” rupturing American national imaginary with contradictions and anxieties derived from the cultural malaise of contemporary America and the repressed memory of nation- and empire-building violence.

Junghyun Hwang received her Ph.D. in Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of California, San Diego with a dissertation entitled, “Specters of the Cold War in America’s Century: The Korean War and Transnational Politics of National Imaginaries in the 1950s.” Her research concerns transnational Asian/American studies, with a focus on comparative U.S.-Korea cultural studies and trans-Pacific Cold War studies. She taught courses on post-liberation Korean film and literature at UCSD, and since Fall 2009, she has taught a variety of American culture courses at Sogang University in Seoul, Korea.

Open to the public.

Cost : Free


Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies

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