This talk focuses on the South Korean borderlands, along the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which has separated the two Koreas since the end of the Korean War (1950-53). Based on ethnographic research with ecological scientists and citizen scientists who conduct fieldwork in heavily militarized areas near the DMZ, this talk analyzes how ecological studies of the flora and fauna of the DMZ region exemplify "biological peace," or peace beyond geopolitics.
Biological peace informs the sensibilities of South Koreans who are drawn to the rare ecology of the DMZ because it introduces a new orientation toward the division and Cold War Korean politics. Hiro Miyazaki has called reorientation a "key operation of hope."
In the case of the Korean DMZ, I argue that hope in the ecologies of the DMZ does not lead to a hope for peace in the form of unification, but for a more expansive understanding of peace, one that can include nonhuman life forms and the habitats that are crucial to their survival. I discuss how biological peace can likewise help to impel a reorientation in theorizations of peace, to include both the cosmopolitical turn of feminist STS and the more-than-human worldings of multispecies ethnography.
About the speaker
Eleana Kim is a sociocultural anthropologist and associate professor of anthropology and Asian American Studies at University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Making Peace with Nature: Ecological Encounters along the Korean DMZ (2022) and Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging (2010), both published by Duke University Press.