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The politics of transnational welfare citizenship : kin, state, and personhood among older Sakhalin Koreans Lim, Sungsook


This dissertation examines the return migration and the reconfiguration of personhood among older Sakhalin Koreans. Based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork conducted from 2010 to 2011on Sakhalin Island, Russia and in South Korea, I explore how transnational return mobility shapes discourses, practices, and imaginaries of kinship and citizenship among older Sakhalin Koreans. This study situates the return program as an imperial formation, and a contemporary ethno-nation-building project of Japan and South Korea. I contend that this particular program has provoked complex emotional and political discourses around family separation and reunion, as well as raised questions of inclusion and exclusion among older Sakhalin Koreans reflecting on their relationship to the three nation-states, Japan, South Korea, and Russia. This study highlights how older Sakhalin Koreans reconstitute personhood through practices of kinship and citizenship in a transnational milieu where post-colonial, post-Cold War, and post-socialist transformations intersect. Adding the prism of everyday moral experiences to the analytical lenses of kinship, transnational citizenship, and humanitarianism, I analyze the unexpected consequences of return mobility among both mobile and immobile subjects. I examine how older Sakhalin Koreans imagine and make sense of separation from and reunion with offspring, friends, and companions, as well as living and diseased kin across multiple spaces and times. I also explore experiences of citizenship. These include aspirations for living, transnational strategies for drawing welfare entitlements in Russia and South Korea, and claim-making practices. I argue that these processes entail problematizing, criticizing, and reflecting on the self, all part of how older Sakhalin Koreans constitute personhood. My study suggests that kinship, citizenship, and the politics of care are crucial components for understanding transnational mobility. Moreover, my research underscores the confluence of age, gender, and life course as crucial factors in the experience of mobility, an approach rarely taken in the study of transnational mobility. Finally, this study critically analyzes how ongoing large-scale social transformations intersect with everyday lives, and thereby provides a much needed perspective on transnational mobility. This dissertation offers a grounded understanding of how post-colonial, post-Cold War, and post-socialist transformations have shaped personhood in Northeast Asia and more broadly Eurasia.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International