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This talk discusses the ecological, cultural, and political transformations that have contributed to the DMZ’s resignification from a scar of fratricidal war to a green belt representing biodiversity and peace. Prof. Kim discusses how the unending Korean War and the waxing and waning of inter-Korean détente have conditioned a temporality in South Korea that she calls “the meantime of division.” The DMZ no longer represents a forbidden zone, but rather has become a new frontier of possibilities, largely related to its ecological renaissance. Consequently, areas near the border have become sites for contestations and encounters among various parties, including farmers, local environmentalists, urban activists and intellectuals, and more-than-human entities. Prof. Kim examines how the DMZ’s “nature” is produced as valuable—ecologically and economically—and how it is becoming newly political.
Eleana Kim is a cultural anthropologist and an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She wrote Making Peace with Nature: Ecological Encounters Along the DMZ (Duke UP, June 2022), and Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging (Duke UP, 2010), which won the James B. Palais Prize in Korean Studies from the Association of Asian Studies and the Social Science Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies, both in 2012.