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How Do Abject Bodies Respond?

How Do Abject Bodies Respond?

Ethnographies of a Dispersed Empire

(p.108) 5 How Do Abject Bodies Respond?
The Affect of Difference
Chul Kim
University of Hawai'i Press

Imperial arts and sciences primitivized colonized subjects, making their abject bodies public and visible through the gaze, probing, and dissection of cameras, measuring devices, and surgical instruments. As loyal attendants of modern bio-power, Korean naturalist and realist literature came into existence simultaneously with imperial physical anthropology’s production of depraved bodies. This is why colonial Korean literature is fraught with representations of the underclass, criminals, the disabled, and the insane. South Korean literary historiography has tended to aestheticize these bodies for the purpose of shoring up anti-colonial nationalism in the post-Liberation era. How, then, might we recuperate the resistance of colonized bodies in reading colonial literature? How do these silent bodies respond to the camera, to the scientists' scalpels? How do they return the gaze of those who measure and probe? How do they emerge as subjects of resistance, transforming from the seen to the observer?

Keywords:   racial anatomy, physical anthropology, Yŏm Sangsŏp, Kim Saryang, bio-politics, colonial science, gaze, abjection, noble savage

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