Weddings without Marriage: Same-Sex Love across South Korean History

A.Prof. Todd A. Henry (History, UCSD)
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
10,000won for non-members and 5,000won for student non-members (with student ID); free for members

Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch lecture series

이미지: 사람 1명 이상, 결혼식

Weddings without Marriage:

Same-Sex Love across South Korean History


In recent years, some (but not all) South Korean activists seek to legalize same-sex marriage as one way to ensure the happiness of gay and lesbian people.  Although increasingly popular in Asia and across the world, Korean citizens cannot avail themselves of this arrangement because of the entrenched opposition of fundamentalist Christians and conservative politicians.  My talk revisits the understudied history of female-female weddings during the authoritarian era (1953-1993) to excavate a critical genealogy of same-sex love in South Korean history.  I consider why working-class women often appeared as heteronormative couples in the mass media of this period and what their attempts at social (but not legal) recognition signified in the context of postwar reconstruction and economic development.  I also ask what we can learn about queer intimacies from past efforts to stabilize same-sex relationships, especially in light of middle-class male partners who have become the cisgender face of LGBTI activism in today’s South Korea.

이미지: 사람 1명, 서 있음, 결혼식

Todd A. Henry (Ph.D., UCLA, 2006; Associate Professor, History, UCSD) is a specialist of modern Korea with a focus on the period of Japanese rule and its postcolonial afterlives. A social and cultural historian interested in global forces that (re)produce lived spaces, he also examines cross-border processes linking South Korea, North Korea, Japan, and the US in the creation of “Hot War” militarisms, the transpacific practice of medical sciences, and the embodied experiences of hetero-patriarchal capitalism. Dr. Henry’s first book, Assimilating Seoul (University of California Press, 2014), addressed the violent but contested role of public spaces in colonial Korea. He has written several related articles on questions of place, race, and nation in colonizing and decolonizing movements on the peninsula. Currently, Dr. Henry is completing his second book, tentatively entitled The Profit of Queerness. This study of authoritarian development in Cold War South Korea examines the ideological functions and subcultural dynamics of queerness as they relate to middlebrow journalism and sexual science, anti-communist modes of kinship and citizenship, and globalized discourses and practices of the “sexual revolution.” A sample of this new work appears in his edited volume, Queer Korea (Duke University Press, 2019). Dr. Henry has received two Fulbright grants (Kyoto University, 2004-2005; Hanyang and Ewha Womans Universities, 2013), two fellowships from the Korea Foundation (Seoul National University, 2003-2004; Harvard University, 2008-2009), and one fellowship from the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies (Seoul National University, 2019). At UCSD, he is an affiliate faculty member of Critical Gender Studies and Science Studies. From 2013 until 2018, Dr. Henry served as the inaugural director of Transnational Korean Studies, the recipient of a $600,000 grant from the Academy of Korean Studies as a Core University Program for Korean Studies.

Venue:          Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace,

                      Gwanghwamun (near Anguk Station, across street from Japanese Embassy)

                      * Somerset Palace is no longer providing free parking. 


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Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch
Room 611, Korean Christian Building, Daehak-ro 19 (Yeonji-dong), Jongno-gu, Seoul 03129
[03129] 서울시 종로구 대학로 19 (연지동) 한국기독교회관 611호

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