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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Dressing difference : gender, ethnicity, and subjectivity in representations of chima chogori in Japan Choi, Suhyun


This thesis investigates the works of contemporary artists from Japan, Shimada Yoshiko and Oh Haji, who have incorporated into their practice chima chogori, or Korean ethnic dress for women. Highlighting the continued presence and significance of chima chogori within Japanese art and visual culture from the early twentieth century, this thesis examines how their works address and respond to a long history of representations of women in ethnic dress in Japan. During Japan’s colonization of the Korean peninsula (1910-1945), representations of Korean women in chima chogori were actively produced and circulated in the metropole, where such images played a crucial role in demarcating the boundaries between Japan and Korea. Inseparable from Japan’s ongoing imperial aggressions, they further manifest the changing role of colonial Korea within the empire. In postwar Japan, chima chogori reemerged, most notably in the form of school uniforms at Korean schools: taking up chima chogori, a sign of ethnic difference, was a strategic stance taken by Zainichi Koreans in their response to and resistance against the legacies of imperialism that continued to exclude them from the borders of the nation. While drawing attention to the issues of women’s subjectivity and gender difference in the practice and representation of chima chogori uniforms, I also point out how women’s negotiations of their identities through the practice of chima chogori are often obscured in media representations. Intervening in this history of representations of chima chogori in Japanese visual culture, Shimada and Oh reveal a shared concern for the encounter with the other in their approach to chima chogori. Their works, I argue, speak to and open up an ethics of alterity and, in doing so, critique the imperialist systems that constructed difference for the domination of the other and continue to condition the lives of Koreans in Japan. At the same time, their works challenge the representational and discursive practices of chima chogori that have been largely dominated by men.

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