Dr. Sunyoung Park

Presentation Title: Peoples of the Anthropocene: Posthuman Beings and the Environment in South Korean Science Fiction


Faced with the consequences of anthropogenic desertification, environmental pollution, and climate change, a new generation of South Korean writers and artists today populate their visions of the Anthropocene with a bewildering variety of posthuman and non-human beings. Following the early precedent of Shin Kihwal’s post-apocalyptic nuclear bugs, tropes such as Djuna’s alien broccoli sheep, Bo-Young Kim’s carbon-breathing robots, and Changgyu Kim’s disembodied virtualized humans interrogate our evolutionary futures and, in the process, they disturb conventionally accepted boundaries among humans, animals, plants, and machines. What, however, is the environmental significance of these imaginations? What really differentiates today’s narratives of the Anthropocene from previous apocalyptic stories of nuclear destruction? And what bridges can we build, as cultural critics and teachers, between the theoretical continents of posthumanism, social critique, and the environmental humanities?

Sunyoung Park is associate professor in the departments of East Asian Languages and Cultures and of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Proletarian Wave: Literature and Leftist Culture in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2015) and the editor of Revisiting Minjung: New Perspectives on the Cultural History of 1980s South Korea (University of Michigan Press, 2019). In synergy with her research, Park is also active as an editor and translator of Korean fiction into English, which has resulted, among others, in the publication of three collections of short stories: On the Eve of the Uprising and Other Stories from Colonial Korea (Cornell East Asian Series, 2010); Readymade Bodhisattva: The Kaya Anthology of Science Fiction from South Korea (Kaya Press, 2019); and On the Origin of Species and Other Stories by Bo-Young Kim (Kaya Press, 2021). She is currently working on a monograph entitled Amazing Stories: Science Fiction and the Politics of Modernization in South Korea, 1960-2010.

The challenges posed by the Anthropocene make harmoniously situating human environments within a larger than human world more urgent than at any other historical moment. Varying notions of natural and built, wild and human have been constructed across cultures and historical periods. Understanding the environmental impacts of these constructions and the distinctive resources they may offer for realizing more sustainable futures is a global moral imperative that will require new and deeper collaborations across the human and natural sciences.

Our conference theme of Asia and the Anthropocene: Visions of Being Human in a More-than-Human World invites reflections on the different ways human environments have been placed within larger-than-human worlds in the philosophies, literatures, arts and sciences of Asia, and explorations of how this cultural diversity can inform and inspire new visions of the biological, biocultural and biophysical connections among plants, animals, humans, and other less materially living presences.

Past ASDP Conferences