The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has been off-limits to human habitation for nearly seventy years, and in that time, biodiverse forms of life have flourished in and around the DMZ as beneficiaries of an unresolved war. In Making Peace with Nature Eleana J. Kim shows how a closer examination of the DMZ in South Korea reveals that the area's biodiversity is inseparable from scientific practices and geopolitical, capitalist, and ecological dynamics. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with ecologists, scientists, and local residents, Kim focuses on irrigation ponds, migratory bird flyways, and land mines in the South Korean DMZ area, demonstrating how human and nonhuman ecologies interact and transform in spaces defined by war and militarization. In so doing, Kim reframes peace away from a human-oriented political or economic peace and toward a more-than-human, biological peace. Such a peace recognizes the reality of war while pointing to potential forms of human and nonhuman relations.
List of Abbreviations ix
The South Korean DMZ Region xi
A Note about Romanization and Translation xii
1. In the Meantime of Division 30
2. Ponds 62
3. Birds 87
4. Landmines 119
Epilogue. De/militarized Ecologies 152
Works Cited 177
Eleana J. Kim is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging, also published by Duke University Press.
"How can a space frequently described as the most dangerous place on earth, filled with fences and land mines, contested among military nuclear powers and still formally at war, become a site of more-than-human flourishing? Eleana J. Kim's interrogation of the Korean DMZ is both shocking and vital – a must-read for those rethinking multispecies ecologies and governance. What, she ultimately asks, would a fully demilitarized environment even look like? Can one even imagine it?"
– Joseph Masco, author of The Future of Fallout, and Other Episodes in Radioactive World-Making
"Politically astute and intellectually compelling, this provocative ethnography asks new questions about the interrelationship between human and nonhuman actors while offering fresh understandings and possibilities for political action. In the best tradition of critical thought, it takes a topic that is of passing familiarity to most readers and upends it. Making Peace with Nature will have an immediate impact across cultural anthropology, East Asian studies, environmental studies, political science, and policy studies."
– Christopher T. Nelson, author of Dancing with the Dead: Memory, Performance, and Everyday Life in Postwar Okinawa