- Purchase/rental options available:
This essay provides a critical genealogy of the United States’ militarized relation with China through an analysis of Ha Jin’s novel War Trash. This vexed relation takes form in the novel as a self-described “documentary style” memoir of a Chinese POW who survives the brutality of a UN–US camp during the Korean War. War Trash gestures to the significance of China in the consolidation of the United States as an increasingly militarized national security and permanent warfare state from World War II and into the twenty-first century. Focusing on how the novel renders the POW camp as a particular kind of spatial exception, in which the biopolitical space and the geopolitical territory coconstitute each other, the essay demonstrates how the nexus of US militarism, imperialism, and settler colonialism—an ensemble theorized as settler modernity—in Asia and the Pacific is largely structured and reproduced through such exceptions. War Trash’s rendering of the Korean War POW camp thus generates broader questions about US settler modernity’s attempt to seize metapolitical authority through spatial exceptions extending beyond what became the fifty states (or incorporated territories) constituting the United States in an era when the settler state also becomes a military empire.