Associate 2000-01

Nancy A. Abelmann


Chicagoland Korean Americans in Illinois Public Higher Education

Professor Abelmann, 1999-2000 University Scholar, is an anthropologist of East Asia and of Asian America. Building upon earlier research on historical memory and social inequality in South Korea, Echoes of the Past, Echoes of Dissent: A South Korean Social Movement, (University of California Press, 1996), the transnational contours of Korean Americans, Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots, (with John Lie, Harvard University Press), and an ethnography of women and social mobility in post-Korean War South Korea, The Melodrama of Mobility, she is currently completing an inter-generational study of Korean American students in public higher education in Illinois. The culmination of four years of ethnographic research, Chicagoland Korean Americans in Illinois Public Higher Education explores the educational lives, trajectories, and narratives of these students (and their parents) by situating them in a social and historical story that is necessarily transnational and cross-generational.

In so doing, the project considers primarily: the story of the rapid post-colonial expansion of South Korean public higher education as it bears upon emigration and immigrant lives; the settlement and (internal) migration patterns of Korean Americans in Chicagoland as the ethnic social field from which higher education is chosen and managed; and the enormous evangelicalization of the second generation as it relates to education. These contexts constitute the diverse social and cultural systems of meaning and value through which Korean Americans manage, and make sense of, their education.

During her Center appointment, Professor Abelmann will focus on writing Chicagoland Korean Americans as an accessible and ethnographically grounded account of the complex and heterogeneous public educational lives and meanings of one community of Asian American students and their parents.