Dr Ryan Gustafsson1
1Asia Institute, University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
The figure of the Korean transnational adoptee has proven ambiguous and difficult to categorize. Hübinette contends that ethnic and migration studies rarely include adoptees, since ‘adoption is not really conceptualized as a migration’ (2016: 223). Kyeyoung Park’s (1999) analysis of Korean American migrants’ experiences of self and community, for instance, neglects to mention adoptees as constituting a sizeable proportion (8%) of the Korean American population, and who also navigate cultural expectations and racial discrimination that warrant conceptual engagement. Grace Cho’s book, Haunting the Korean Diaspora, provides a compelling account of how militarism and transgenerational haunting constitutes the Korean diaspora in the United States. Yet the adoptee appears very briefly and only once in Cho’s book – and as a ghost. In this paper, I engage with Cho’s book and Jodi Kim’s work on militarism. I argue that conceptualizing the Korean diaspora as constituted by haunting provides a useful framework for theorizing adoptee experiences, hence extending Cho’s analyses. I do not equate the experiences of adoptees with that of Korean first and second-generation migrants; rather, I argue for the theorization of a ‘kinship of spectralities’ among these groups.
Ryan S. Gustafsson is an Honorary fellow at the Asia Institute. Trained in continental philosophy and social theory, they are working on a research project theorizing Korean transnational adoption. They are also currently completing a book manuscript, The Rehabilitation of the Possible: On Nature in Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy.