Ship In The Sand

music, fandom and photography



image © 2012 Aline Giordano

text © 2013 Aline Giordano

The culture of transnationally-adopted Koreans has most often been (re)presented thus far through affecting ethnographic investigations. The recurrence and concurrence of these ethnographies have strengthened the voice of those individuals given for adoption to other nations. Yet these studies typically focus on the adopted Korean as a cultural recipient. The academic narrative situates them at the cultural periphery, and usually portrays them as victims of cultural imperialism – the post-colonial discourse is particularly fitting here. However, portraying the adopted Korean as a social and cultural outsider has ethical consequences.

I, an adopted Korean, had begun studying the autoethnographic process before I travelled to South Korea to reconnect with my roots. Autoethnography took on a whole new meaning when I came back to the UK and resumed my research on the photographic representation of popular music. Hubinette’s problematisation of Korean adoption using Bhabha’s hybridity theory made me realise that  ‘white self-identification’ was perhaps the mark of a ‘complete subordination to white hegemonic power’. Suddenly, declaring my cultural and political identity became challenging.

The humanist element in the problematisation of the Korean adoption issue is important, politically and in relation to social policy, so that pressure can be maintained on the South Korean government to look into the socio-economics of transnational adoption. Yet, I argue that the political act is not just in re-writing this history but also in establishing its fundamental resistance to the formulaic assimilation of the Korean adoptee as an object studied through ‘analytic and ready-made concepts’. Hence, that by representing the adopted Korean as ‘a producer of culture’ rather than a victim we are able to construct a more comprehensive picture of the culture of the transnationally-adopted Korean.



Hübinette, T. (2007), ‘Asian bodies out of control: Examining the adopted Korean existence’. In R. Parrenas, S and L. Siu, C, D (eds), Asian diasporas (Vol. 28, pp. 16-24). Standford: Stanford University Press.

Marcus, G., E. (1998), ‘What Comes (Just) After ‘Post’?: The Case of Ethnography’. In K. Denzin, Norman and Y. Lincoln, S (eds), The Landscape of Qualitative Research: Theories and Issues (pp. 383-406). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

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