Curative Violence

Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 8 illustrations Published: January 2017

Author: Eunjung Kim

American Studies, Asian Studies > East Asia, Disability Studies

In Curative Violence Eunjung Kim examines what the social and material investment in curing illnesses and disabilities tells us about the relationship between disability and Korean nationalism. Kim uses the concept of curative violence to question the representation of cure as a universal good and to understand how nonmedical and medical cures come with violent effects that are not only symbolic but also physical. Writing disability theory in a transnational context, Kim tracks the shifts from the 1930s to the present in the ways that disabled bodies and narratives of cure have been represented in Korean folktales, novels, visual culture, media accounts, policies, and activism. Whether analyzing eugenics, the management of Hansen's disease, discourses on disabled people's sexuality, violence against disabled women, or rethinking the use of disabled people as a metaphor for life under Japanese colonial rule or under the U.S. military occupation, Kim shows how the possibility of life with disability that is free from violence depends on the creation of a space and time where cure is seen as a negotiation rather than a necessity.


"In this brilliant and necessary book, Eunjung Kim analyzes the deployment of illness and disability in modern Korea, carefully tracing how cure and rehabilitation are used in the service of the nation. Kim's concepts of "curative violence" and "cure by proxy" describe the violent effects of cure and rehabilitation broadly defined, revealing the integral and mutually constitutive role of gender, disability, and sexuality norms in cure ideology and practices. From start to finish, Curative Violence is an exceptional work of transnational feminist disability studies scholarship, and is essential reading not only for those interested in disability studies, but also for anyone studying transnational feminist theory, postcolonial studies, gender and sexual violence, and women's and gender studies more broadly." — 2017 Alison Piepmeier Award Committee

"One of the greatest merits of Curative Violence is that the author tries to avoid the traps in examining disability and cure in non-western cultures. Rather, the author would like to ask us to reconsider current biomedical technology, socio-economic norms, and values across cultures that use violence to overcome or cure disabilities, which are made unrecognisable and invisible in the name of cure." — Se Kwang Hwang, Disability & Society

"Kim interrogates the intersections of disability, illness, gender, sexuality, and cure by analyzing Korean cultural representations of disability from the past century. She makes a compelling case for understanding cure as 'based on complicated social and familial negotiations that occur beyond an individual’s desire or volition.' . . . The cultural representations Kim analyzes are sweeping in their scope, and she narrates them with sensitivity and a theoretical rigour that lays bare societal divisions and power hierarchies." — Celeste L. Arrington, Pacific Affairs

"[Kim's] approach proves powerful and convincing, drawing upon additional source materials through film and documentary in the post-colonial era. . . . She calls not just for a re-envisioning of the medical community, but an entirely different South Korean society, one distinct from the hyper-capitalist form emerging out of the Korean War." — John P. DiMoia, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological & Biomedical Sciences

"A brilliant piece of intersectional, transnational, and interdisciplinary scholarship that situates the harms that accompany cure-based ideologies and practices within historical and contemporary Korean political contexts. . . . Curative Violence, both its structure and content, is written in an approachable manner, which makes it a must-read for undergraduate students and established scholars alike."
  — Viki Peer, Disability Studies Quarterly

"Beautifully written and critically engaging, Curative Violence is well organized and supported, drawing from approaches in gender, sexuality, disability, and postcolonial studies in its analysis of visual media, legal codes, and print texts. . . . It is also deeply unsettling, as it is intended, so that we remain neither complacent nor complicit." — Sonja M. Kim, Korean Studies

"A brilliant piece of intersectional, transnational, and interdisciplinary scholarship that situates the harms that accompany cure-based ideologies and practices within historical and contemporary Korean political contexts. . . . Groundbreaking." — Viki Peer, Disability Studies Quarterly

"Kim’s contribution is unique in English-language Korean studies not just because she attends to issues of disability and ableism, but also because she deftly interweaves feminist and queer concerns into her inquiry into the political and cultural effects of disability in Korea." — Laura C. Nelson, Cross-Currents

“Eunjung Kim’s work shines in the brilliance of its analysis. Highly recommended for scholars working at the intersections of disability studies, modern Korean cultural history, and gender studies.” — Wei Yu Wayne Tan, Acta Koreana

Curative Violence is an exceptional accomplishment in Korean studies, disability studies, and the history of East Asian medicine. It also stands out as a product of sincere dedication by those who have struggled to achieve sustainable and nonviolent living conditions for everyone in Korean society.” — Soyoung Suh, Journal of Asian Studies

"Kim’s groundbreaking study of disability and rehabilitation in Korean society expands our horizon of disability in Korean culture and will stimulate future debate and exploration." — Shu Wan, H-Disability, H-Net Reviews

"A remarkable book that combines critical thinking with transnational and postcolonial feminist views and in-depth archival and narrative analysis. . . . Brilliantly rearticulates what might have been plainly regarded or already established by deploying imaginative thinking tools and visual images. . . . A crucial addition to Korean studies." — Jesook Song, Journal of Korean Studies

"Through her wide-ranging analysis that includes novels, folktales, films, media accounts, historical narratives, social policies, and disability activism, Kim has argued for ways to rethink 'cure.' . . . Phenomenal in provoking us to reflect." — Nirmala Erevelles, Feminist Formations

"Eunjung Kim expertly theorizes curative violence through an intersectional and interdisciplinary approach via disability studies, gender and sexuality studies, and Korean studies in an accessible text with detailed context. This is a must-read for scholars in any discipline — upper-level undergraduate students, graduate students, and academics in both gender and sexuality studies and disability studies — as well as for anyone working on the issue of violence as intervention." — Jo Teut, Resources for Gender and Women's Studies

"In the breadth of legal, literary, filmic, social, and cultural events it analyzes, Curative Violence demonstrates a remarkable commitment to offering grounds for shared political action and knowledge production. The book honors the US- and South Korea–based activist and academic productions that came before it and will be an inspiring guide for more scholarship to come on the interstices of disability studies, medical humanities, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonialism and imperialism studies, East Asian and American studies, and literary and cultural studies." — Jeong Eun Annabel We, GLQ

"Eunjung Kim helps us imagine a future that embraces disability not simply as something to fix, but as an intrinsic and even beautiful part of humanity—a critical approach encouraging Koreans and others around the world to reorient our inherited notions of 'health' and 'well-being.' With theoretical vigor and clarity, Curative Violence makes a bold, unique, and well-articulated intervention into disability studies, Korean studies, gender and sexuality studies, and beyond." — Todd A. Henry, author of Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945

"From its opening pages, Eunjung Kim's book is both striking and demanding. Ambitious in its analytical breadth and topical scope, it impressively delivers on its elaboration of curative violence. Kim's examination of South Korean biopolitical conditions in relation to cure sets an excellent example for transnational disability studies at large, and has lessons for an impressively broad range of readers." — Mel Y. Chen, author of Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect


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Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eunjung Kim is Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Disability Studies at Syracuse University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Folded Time and the Presence of Disability  1
1. Unmothering Disability  42
2. Cure by Proxy  81
3. Violence as a Way of Loving  122
4. Uninhabiting Family  166
5. Curing Virginity  197
Conclusion. How to Inhabit the Time Machine with Disability  323
Notes  235
Bibliography  269
Index  285
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2017 Alison Piepmeier Award, presented by the National Women's Studies Association

Winner of the James B. Palais Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6288-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6277-7
Publicity material