- Postcolonial Grief: The Afterlives of the Pacific Wars in the Americas by Jinah Kim
In the context of the ongoing disavowal of military violence and imperialisms in the Pacific, Postcolonial Grief: The Afterlives of the Pacific Wars in the Americas asks: What kind of transformative politics is possible when we mourn and remember the deaths and losses that have been erased from Japanese, U.S., and Korean national histories? Insisting that the violence of past wars and colonialism shape the postcolonial present, Jinah Kim explores how the aesthetic and creative work of Korean and Japanese diasporic writers, artists, and filmmakers across the Americas illuminates how the difficult work of mourning and remembering may generate transformative and decolonial politics. Guided by comparative, relational, and critical juxtaposing perspectives, Postcolonial Grief powerfully names the interimperial complicity between U.S. and Japanese imperialisms in the Pacific and places the experiences and representations of Korean and Japanese diasporas in the Americas in conversation with other displaced and marginalized peoples.
What I appreciate most about Postcolonial Grief is its contention that Asian diasporic subjectivity exists in relation to a large constellation of actors and historical situations not only across the Pacific but also across the Americas. In four tightly-written chapters that become progressively more transnational in scope, Kim retells the violence of Japanese and American militarism in the Pacific by moving outward from Los Angeles to Japan, Peru, and South Korea, and [End Page 184] analyzing in turn the cultural politics around redress for WWII-era Japanese American internment, the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, former Korean colonial subjects and hibakushas who refuse to forget their stories, and the 1996 hostage takeover of the Japanese ambassador's home in Peru. An eloquent meditation on war, memory, empire, and grieving, Postcolonial Grief cumulatively explores the relationship of mourning and refusal to heal to transpacific subjectivities, aesthetics and decolonial politics that seek to expose Japanese and American colonial atrocities and ongoing militarized occupations.
Chapter 2, "Haunting Absence," exemplifies the book's comparative and relational approach to world history. Conceptualizing Los Angeles as a critical portal through which to engage the militarized Pacific Arena, Kim provocatively shows how the 1992 Los Angeles Riots reveals the intersections of American militarism and (neo) colonialism in South Korea and in Guatemala with Black struggles against deindustrialization and segregation in Los Angeles. Through a historical overview of the shared legacies of U.S. militarism in Korea and in Guatemala, and a critical reading of Dai Sil Kim-Gibson's film Sa-I-Gu (4-2-9, for April 29) and Hector Tobar's novel The Tattooed Soldiers, Kim maps the postcolonial grief that links these silenced military histories and peoples, showing how the eruption in seemingly local neighborhoods in Los Angeles was constructed through and connected to transnational conflict and decades of U.S. imperialism. She further shows how the absence of state protection and breakdown of social orders during the riots challenged the city's Korean Americans and Latinos to produce new critiques that establish the confluence of U.S. militarism and white supremacy. In the same way, in her analysis of Hisaye Yamamoto's 1985 short story "A Fire in Fontana," Kim illuminates how the forced relocation and incarceration and postwar relocation of Japanese Americans into U.S. cities emerges through the historical and ongoing dispossession and segregation of Blacks upheld by both white mob violence and police collusion.
Postcolonial Grief also stands out for its attentiveness to the importance of geopolitical and cultural imaginary in understanding world history. In the Introduction chapter, Kim establishes that U.S. wars in Asia and the Pacific Arena are not only historical and political events; they are also cultural-literary ones. Through analyses of the language of U.S. treaties and policies and literary and filmic archives, Kim shows that U.S. Cold War liberal governance, with its narratives of rescue and universal human liberation, silences the interimperial violence and...