Ji-Yeon O. Jo
An Affective Topography of Ethnic Korean Return Migration
University of Hawaii Press 2018
New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in LanguageNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network May 31, 2018 Ed Pulford
For anyone with an interest in Korean studies, the study of diaspora and globalization, and indeed in broader questions around transnational identities and encounters in East Asia and beyond, Homing will prove an invaluable text. In it Ji-Yeon Jo, Associate Professor of Korean language and culture at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, weaves together an array of fascinating and often moving personal accounts from members of the longstanding Korean communities in China, the former-Soviet Union and the United States who have moved ‘back’ (a complicated term as she explains in this podcast) to South Korea, mostly since the 1990s. Basing her work largely on personal interviews, Professor Jo also offers rich background on how the Chinese, Soviet and US Korean diaspora communities became established in the first place, and how and why it was that many of them elected to return to the Korean peninsula in recent decades.
But this book is much more than just a historical summary or collection of interview findings, for it develops a sophisticated set of arguments which highlight, in the author’s own words, “diasporic diversities and specificities” among each of the Chinese, Soviet, and American groups (p. 3). It is via professor Jo’s tracing of parallels and divergences between returnee diaspora experiences, and the theoretical optic through which she considers these, that the book’s wider theoretical questions emerge to the fore and we are encouraged, again in professor Jo’s words, to “rethink legacy migration through the lens of trans-border belongings” (p. 21).
Ed Pulford is a postdoctoral researcher at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.