Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Precarious Politics: Queer Young Adults and the Social Life-Course in South Korea

In South Korea, heteronormative notions about adulthood and a desirable middle-class life-course—post-college job stability, marriage, moving out, and having children—are being tested. Neoliberal reforms are making it difficult for many young people to participate in these processes of social reproduction. Recent statistics suggest that over one in five college graduates are unemployed and nearly half of South Koreans aged 20-34 depend on their parents for shelter and finance. Unemployment and rising living costs have also contributed to declining marriage and childbirth rates. In the 2000s, 20-30-year-old gays and lesbians often entered "contract marriages" with each other to conceal their sexualities. However, queer young adults now encounter a situation where normative processes of social reproduction are being undermined and transformed. This situation of economic "precarity" has taken on a queer twist: normative heterosexual social expectations for the life-course are being broken among young adults in South Korea, regardless of their sexuality. If precarity is queering norms of social reproduction, how do queer young adults navigate these transformations? This project explores intersections among sexuality, marginalization, and economic vulnerability in South Korea through an ethnography of queer-identifying college students and alumni who are actively engaging these changing social, cultural, and political circumstances.