“A critical religious studies experiment that aims at mis/understanding: from immigrant autobiographies to H Mart to Dictee to progressive evangelicals, I explore being and belonging by looking at the multiple subjectivities around koreanity, which I theorize inflects the racializing assemblages embedded in American Protestantism, American militarism, and American orientalism. ”
This dissertation is about religion, race, and belonging in Korean America. I employ something I call koreanity, a deliberately strange neologism this project does not aim to define or resolve but hold in suspension as I explore how a wide range of cultural productions mobilize the mutually constitutive nature of race and religion. Koreanity was a slip of the tongue, an accidental mishmash of “Korean” and “Christianity” that increasingly became a possible way to engage the particular formation of the citizen-as-subject. It inflects the racializing assemblages associated with networks of American Protestantism, which are made manifest in projects of U.S. American militarism, and underscored by structures of American orientalism. It is also a way to imagine new modes of being, of social affiliation. I closely follow the work of those who tell the story of Asians in America by theorizing processes of racialization through “transpacific entanglements” that emphasize the settler logic of U.S. imperialism. I bring these insights together with religious studies scholarship on a globalism that aims at a religious homogeneity. Through the stories of Koreans in the U.S. diaspora, I trace the following themes that demonstrate the mutual imbrication of religion and race: citizenship, coloniality, capitalism, and community. This project will further illustrate the theological processes of citizenship as a form of assimilation, as legibility and intelligibility.
This is not an essentialist project, neither a deconstructive one, but an experiment in mis/understanding. My aim with koreanity is to explore how race and religion together circulate through networks, institutions, and cultural productions to produce the figure of the Korean in the U.S. diaspora as an unstable citizen-as-subject. As a critical religious studies project I offer an example of how the study of/through/around religion might invited us to ponder the radical ways people make their selves, and their worlds.