28 December 2003

A Korean Anthropologist in Dixie

The following book excerpt is for my blogfather, Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind. It comes from One Anthropologist, Two Worlds: Three Decades of Reflexive Fieldwork in North America and Asia (University of Tennessee Press, 2002) by Choong Soon Kim, author of An Asian Anthropologist in the American South: Field Experiences with Blacks, Indians, and Whites (U. Tenn. Press, 1977; out of print), Faithful Endurance: An Ethnography of Korean Family Dispersal (University of Arizona Press, 1988), and Japanese Industry in the American South (Routledge, 1995).
As I live longer in the South, the more I like the region.... My comfort in living in the South does not necessarily stem from my lengthy sojourn in the South; rather it reflects my rural background during my childhood in Korea. The American South and Asia have some similarities. As John Shelton Reed once said, "Somebody once called Charlestonians [meaning southerners] 'America's Japanese,' referring to their habits of eating rice and worshipping their ancestors, and the Southern concern with kin in general is indeed well known." Nowadays, if I travel outside the South, I become uncomfortable and worried, and have culture shock. My feeling of marginality is even more severe when I go to Korea than when I am in the South. This has become more the case now that I have made a deeper commitment to the South and have three southerners in my family--two sons who were born, grew up, and were educated partly in the South, and a daughter-in-law who is a white, native southerner. All these factors lead me to think that my living in the American South is not a historical accident. It feels more and more like karma.

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