The image of the US as leading a good war to establish liberal democracy and move towards racial equality dominate the discourses of the Cold War. In her work, A Violent Peace: Race, U.S. Militarism, and Cultures of Democratization in Cold War Asia and the Pacific
(Stanford University Press, 2020), Christine Hong attempts to debunk the idea of good war and warfare-welfare state that allowed women and racial minorities to participate in national politics by showing how the US government was able to launch total war that blurred the boundaries of home and abroad through the “principle of indistinction.” The supposed blurring of colorline through military desegregation and multilateral, multi-racial alliances hid fortification of the US empire as necropolitical war target broadened through indistinction of civilian, women, and children as possible enemies. The US counterinsurgency eroded democratizing, decolonizing movements abroad based on color lines, and rhetorical racial equality at home was accompanied by increased policing of “high-crime” areas where minorities resided. Hong theorizes a range of struggles such as Black freedom, Asian liberation, and decolonization as “homologous responses to unchecked US war and police power at home and abroad… [The] alignment, participation, and complicity with the US military… blurred the color line, giving a redemptive liberal veneer to US war politics in Asia and the Pacific” (8-9). Through rich analyses of literary texts of Ralph Ellison, Carlos Bulosan, and James Baldwin, Hong examines how POC authors contested the promise of liberal democracy while military-industrial complex and colonial violence sought to erase decolonizing struggles. Hong further draws attention to commercialization of hibakusha’s bodies as well as photographs of Miné Okubo to critique the construction of peace as American property. Hong’s groundbreaking work spans Asian American studies, critical Asian studies, and critical empire studies, challenging us to question the modernity that had been presented to us through seeming homogeneity of American liberal democratic ideals.
Christine Hong is Associate Professor of Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research interests include transnational Asian American, Korean diaspora, U.S. war and empire, and comparative ethnic studies. She is also a board member of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute, a coordinating committee member of the National Campaign to End the Korean War, and a member of the Working Group on Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific. She is currently organizing a teaching initiative to end the Korean War.
Da In Choi is a PhD student at UCLA in the Gender Studies department. Her research interests include reproductive justice movement, care labor and migration, affect theory, citizenship, and critical empire studies. She can be reached at email@example.com.