Cover of Contested Embrace by Jaeeun Kim
Contested Embrace
Transborder Membership Politics in Twentieth-Century Korea
Jaeeun Kim


360 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804797627
Paperback ISBN: 9781503615007
Ebook ISBN: 9780804799614

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Winner of the 2017 Asian And Transnational Studies Book Award, sponsored by the American Sociological Association - Asia/Asian American Section.

Winner of the 2017 Allan Sharlin Memorial Award, sponsored by the Social Science History Association.

Winner of the 2017 Thomas and Znaniecki Best Book Award, sponsored by the American Sociological Association (ASA) - International Migration Section.

Honorable Mention in the 2017 James B. Palais Prize, sponsored by the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) - Northeast Asia Council.

Scholars have long examined the relationship between nation-states and their "internal others," such as immigrants and ethnoracial minorities. Contested Embrace shifts the analytic focus to explore how a state relates to people it views as "external members" such as emigrants and diasporas. Specifically, Jaeeun Kim analyzes disputes over the belonging of Koreans in Japan and China, focusing on their contested relationship with the colonial and postcolonial states in the Korean peninsula.

Extending the constructivist approach to nationalisms and the culturalist view of the modern state to a transnational context, Contested Embrace illuminates the political and bureaucratic construction of ethno-national populations beyond the territorial boundary of the state. Through a comparative analysis of transborder membership politics in the colonial, Cold War, and post-Cold War periods, the book shows how the configuration of geopolitics, bureaucratic techniques, and actors' agency shapes the making, unmaking, and remaking of transborder ties. Kim demonstrates that being a "homeland" state or a member of the "transborder nation" is a precarious, arduous, and revocable political achievement.

About the author

Jaeeun Kim is Assistant Professor of Sociology and the Korea Foundation Assistant Professor of Korean Studies at the University of Michigan. Kim was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University from 2012 to 2013.

"Contested Embrace sets a new standard in the study of migration and the state. Kim's theoretically agile and ethnographically vivid account shows how ordinary people and governments across Northeast Asia have wrestled over the question of who is Korean, and what that means in practice."

—David Scott Fitzgerald, University of California, San Diego

"Contested Embrace is a brilliant and bracing analysis of transborder membership politics. Exhaustively researched and meticulously argued, Jaeeun Kim's book is required reading for anyone interested in modern Northeast Asia, comparative ethnicity and nationalism, and transnational and global studies. It is a great book to think with."

—John Lie, University of California, Berkeley

"This impressive work shows that neither instrumentalist nor culturalist views do justice to how states deal with their diaspora communities abroad and brings rare nuance to the vexed "transnationalism" problematic. Allergic to false binaries of many sorts, not least the one of micro v. macro, Contested Embrace is simply good sociology."

—Christian Joppke, University of Bern

"Kim's Contested Embrace presents a commanding account the long-term macrohistorical and regional interstate dynamics of the Korean transborder membership, mapping the twentieth- and twenty-first-century Korean migration and repatriation across East Asia. Whereas other scholars take the stringent regulation of in-migration as evidence of the ongoing importance of the nation-state in an age of migration and globalization, Kim looks into the state's direct and long-distance management of the diasporic population. She weaves together discrete studies of the state-diaspora relationship across time and borders with her comparative and historical method."

—Hyun Ok Park, Journal of Asian Studies

It is an impressive study, with in-depth historical narratives, engaging theoretical discussions, rich archival and ethnographic data, and nuanced analysis....Contested Embrace is the first extensive study that examines all the Korean transborder populations in Northeast Asia, including both Zainichi Koreans (Korean residents in Japan) and Korean Chinese."

—Myungji Yang, American Journal of Sociology

"By emphasizing the moniker "transborder" rather than "transnational," Jaeeun Kim aptly addresses not just the movement of people over borders but the movement of borders over people...[T]he contributions of Contested Embrace to the literature on nationalism, transnationality, citizenship, and migration are manifold and impressive. In terms of research ambition, scope, and quality of research, this book is a tour de force."

—Nadia Y. Kim, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review