“Blood” created new modes of governance and subjectivities throughout Cold War South Korea, yet remains an elusive critical concept largely neglected in Korean studies. By placing into trans-disciplinary dialogue the history of science, history of religion, and critical mixed race studies, this panel disarticulates the multiple meanings collapsed in “blood.” Inga Kim Diederich addresses blood as medical material, examining why and how blood collection transformed from an underregulated black market within a familial paradigm to today’s nationalized donation system. Understanding blood as Christian substance, Sandra Park interprets a “Eucharistic” mode of citizenship in the conversion of North Korean POWs into South Korean subjects during the Korean War (1950–53). Laura Ha Reizman analyzes domestic discourses on the "problem" of mixed-race Koreans, revealing the complex concerns articulated by the Korean writing public around bloodline, kinship, responsibility, and nation. By approaching blood in these implicit and explicit ways, all three panelists propose new analytical frameworks for understanding how blood was appropriated, transformed, and exploited to govern the discursive terms and material conditions of modern Korean national identity, political theology, and racialized citizenship. This panel’s interrogation of the relationship between blood and nation speaks directly to the anxieties over protecting the national body exacerbated by the global pandemic, reflecting the historical context and present stakes of blood-based governance in South Korea, the Asian diaspora, and beyond.
Paper Presenter: Sandra H. Park – University of Chicago
Paper Presenter: Inga K. Diederich – University of California, San Diego
Paper Presenter: Laura Ha Reizman – University of California, Los Angeles