Clara Han, "Seeing Like a Child: Inheriting the Korean War" (Fordham UP, 2020)

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Intertwining autobiography and ethnography, Clara Han’s touching new book Seeing Like a Child: Inheriting the Korean War (Fordham University Press, 2020) asks how scholarship can be transformed from a child’s perspective. Through a critique of anthropological practices that assume fully formed “I” in its emphasis on self-reflexivity as well as the prioritization of pre-established epistemological categories in the scholarship on transgenerational trauma, Han shows how distinction between historical and ordinary events breaks down as the violence of war is seeped into everyday lives. The make-believe world interlocks with mundane details of the everyday as a child constructs the world around them through languages that are differently encoded with trauma and joy from the legacy of the war.

Divided into four parts, “Part I: Loss and Awakenings” enters into how the trauma of father’s isan kajok (dispersed families) intersect with the memories of illness and affliction of Han’s mother. “Part II: A Future in Kinship, a Future in Language” depicts the process of reconnecting with kin through language while “Part III: The Kids” discusses how sibling relations play an integral role in the inheritance of the Korean War. “Part IV: Mother Tongue” delves into Han’s daughter’s learning about death, loss, and affliction through Han’s father. “Epilogue” further asks how the process of inheriting the trauma of war is gendered and how self-knowledge can lead to anthropological knowledge. Han’s beautifully written and insightful work will be helpful for scholars who are thinking critically about boundaries of knowledge and disciplines, transgenerational trauma and war, and the formation of diasporic communities.

Clara Han is Associate Professor of Anthropology at John Hopkins University. Her research interests include care and violence, the catastrophic and the everyday, and kinship relations in Chile and South Korea.

Da In Ann Choi is a PhD student at UCLA in the Gender Studies department. Her research interests include care labor and migration, reproductive justice, social movement, citizenship theory, and critical empire studies. She can be reached at dainachoi@g.ucla.edu.

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