Cover of Decentering Citizenship by Hae Yeon Choo
Decentering Citizenship
Gender, Labor, and Migrant Rights in South Korea
Hae Yeon Choo

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June 2016
216 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804791274
Paper ISBN: 9780804799669

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Decentering Citizenship follows three groups of Filipina migrants' struggles to belong in South Korea: factory workers claiming rights as workers, wives of South Korean men claiming rights as mothers, and hostesses at American military clubs who are excluded from claims—unless they claim to be victims of trafficking. Moving beyond laws and policies, Hae Yeon Choo examines how rights are enacted, translated, and challenged in daily life and ultimately interrogates the concept of citizenship.

Choo reveals citizenship as a language of social and personal transformation within the pursuit of dignity, security, and mobility. Her vivid ethnography of both migrants and their South Korean advocates illuminates how social inequalities of gender, race, class, and nation operate in defining citizenship. Decentering Citizenship argues that citizenship emerges from negotiations about rights and belonging between South Koreans and migrants. As the promise of equal rights and full membership in a polity erodes in the face of global inequalities, this decentering illuminates important contestation at the margins of citizenship.

About the author

Hae Yeon Choo is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Affiliated Faculty of the Asian Institute and the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto.

"Decentering Citizenship offers a fascinating comparative portrait of three Filipina migrant groups in South Korea. The book is equally a study of domestic advocates of migrants, and of the important effect they have on migrants' well-being. Choo's groundbreaking work will enjoy a wide readership and deserves to be widely taught in undergraduate classes."

—Nancy Abelmann, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"With verve and sophistication, Choo captures the plurality of experiences of migrant women in South Korea—their multiple voices, triumphs and trials, and the numerous contradictions they face. Decentering Citizenship is at once a fast-paced and engrossing ethnography and an insightful, often brilliant rumination on citizenship, kinship, and human rights."

—Namhee Lee, University of California, Los Angeles

"This brilliant book examines the timely topic of international migration with an innovative design of comparative research. Choo vividly demonstrates that the political membership of nationhood and the moral community of humanity are reimagined whenever we confront the question of what kinds of foreigners are 'worthy' of being included."

—Pei-Chia Lan, National Taiwan University

"As South Koreans wrestle with how to incorporate the growing numbers of foreign workers, marriage migrants, and biracial children, they have had to rethink automatic assumptions about citizenship, national belonging, and Korean identity. In Decentering Citizenship, Hae Yeon Choo tackles these important issues through the lens of Filipina migrants residing in South Korea. This rich ethnography is the first to provide such comparative analysis of a fast-growing immigrant population that is reshaping who South Koreans are and what South Korea is. As such, this book should be on the reading list for anyone who wants to better understand the social revolution that is sweeping South Korea today."

—Paul Y. Chang, Pacific Affairs

"Decentering Citizenship could be an ideal textbook for courses on international migration and gender at the graduate and undergraduate level"

—Pyong Gap Min, Gender & Society