Organized Panel Session
Postwar South Korean photography remains a rich yet underexplored field in Asian Studies. Bringing together diverse approaches such as literary studies, comparative ethnic studies, and queer studies, this panel recognizes photography as a powerful source of ideological reproduction and critique; that is to say, the medium can both reinforce dominant perceptions about everyday life, racial homogeneity, militarized masculinity, or an aging population, and offer the possibility of reworking these very perceptions. The first two presenters give accounts of how photographers Han Yǒngsu and Joo Myung Duck captured their human subjects as embodying anxieties about commodification and post-colonial contamination during the heyday of postwar Americanization: while Jae Won Edward Chung focuses on uneasy yet playful arrangement of “ordinary” Koreans alongside commodified images in the streets, Joo Young Lee looks to depictions of mixed-raced children at the Holt Orphanage to unearth their underlying social mechanisms. The latter two presenters trace the evolution and resilience of Cold War-developmentalist themes in twenty-first century contexts: Jung Joon Lee shows how patriarchal imaging of the militarized body from the era of authoritarianism might be re-imagined through “queer optics,” while Pil Ho Kim turns to “critical physiognomy” to reveal how facial imaging of senior citizens may symbolize something other than the onset of population decline. Taken together, the panel uses critical photography as a meeting point for rethinking neo-colonialism and the Cold War across the US-ROK nexus and for offering fresh strategies for incorporating the art and archive of photography into future interdisciplinary scholarship on Asia.