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Korean Diaspora Onstage: Diasporic Consciousness and Reconciliation with the Homeland in Julia Cho’s Aubergine

Miseong Woo 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article examines the National Theater Company of Korea’s 2017 Korean Diaspora Series, giving particular attention to the concept of diaspora and the evolution of diaspora studies from a twenty-first-century perspective. The later part of the article focuses on Julia Cho’s Aubergine, which premiered in Berkeley and New York in 2016, as a dramatic text of the Korean diaspora to analyze how the diasporic consciousness in the works of Cho can be received in the Korean context. Unlike the classical studies of diaspora that focus on a racial or ethnic group’s anthropological dispersal, the main concern of late twentieth-century diaspora studies has expanded to include emancipatory politics and explore various conditions of racial, ethnic, and political minorities. Departing from the sociopolitical approach to diaspora studies, contemporary diaspora studies in the field of humanities can be characterized by their consideration of various states of diasporic experience that no longer necessitate a permanent break from a homeland. Redefining diaspora through a phenomenology of postmemory can help us better understand the ambivalence of second- and third-generation Korean diaspora writers and their feelings of abjection toward their cultural heritage. Although Korea remains a depressing space of national trauma and tragedy-inducing homeland with post-war privation and degradation, Cho’s diasporic position as a playwright can provide a critical distance from her parents’ motherland for Korean audience. Unlike her previous works, Aubergine proves that Cho feels more comfortable staging her own Korean heritage. Together with other Korean diaspora writers, Cho occupies a unique position as both an American and a Korean-identity-forming subject who can perceive the boundaries of Korean culture in relation to other cultural perspectives and values.

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