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Christin Yu

MPhil work

Fragments and Borders: Reconstructing Post-war Korean Identity Through Patchwork

The contemporary history of the Korean peninsula is afflicted by the trauma of recent wars, colonial occupations, geopolitical division, military regimes and nuclear anxiety. Memory and history are affected by such events, and since the fall of the Japanese imperial army (post-WWII) and the Korean Armistice Agreement, the idea of ‘Korea’ has been rigidly redefined through neo-nationalist narratives in both the north and south alike. This project examines the post-war period of South Korean reconstruction through the design history of Korean patchwork. Viewed as working-class women’s craft, I explore the technique from its traditional form to its modern adaptations, in an effort to present the underrepresented voices of marginalised women. Such plurality of voices may contribute to a polyphonic history of Korea that necessarily troubles the official narrative serving South Korean nationalism. Moreover, through the examination of the patchwork’s existence in a global context, I illustrate the fluidity of Korean identity through diasporic interpretations. Focusing on the period of American presence in South Korea, I investigate the role of craft in shaping South Korean identity, particularly in the context of post-war, postcolonial rebuilding under the influence of imposed foreign benefactors.  

This research uses cross-disciplinary approaches of object analysis, archive research, curator, artist and designer interviews, and auto-ethnography to explore Korean patchwork in its multiple forms. By using a theoretical framework that foregrounds the problem of the postcolonial and its specificity to the Korean peninsula, I will actively interrogate the definitions of ‘Korea’ and ‘East Asia’ through the purview of Western, academic discourse and its historical genealogies rooted in Orientalist, imperialist and Cold War ideologies and narratives. Moreover, I examine histories of women through their processes of gendering in Korea, and will challenge dominant ideas of patriarchy that privilege, for example, visibility. This work asks: what is Korean patchwork? How has its relation to tradition resonated in its contemporary form? What is the narrative of its existence? How has its presence affected the reconstruction of identity? What is the history of its cultural ubiquity? How does it resonate, construct and reflect the Korean imaginary? 

Info

  • MPhil

    School

    School of Arts & Humanities

    Programme

    History of Design, 2017–2022

  • I am a Korean-Canadian-British woman with a professional background in print and textile design. The recent global resurgence of neo-nationalism has led me to pursue research regarding identity, nationalism, global diasporas, gender and the affects of generational trauma and colonial subjugation through the design history of textiles.  

    My educational background includes an Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto and a Masters of Arts in Digital Media from Goldsmiths College, University of London, during which I pursued theoretical interests in Cultural Theory.

    My theoretical interests include East Asian Design History, Postcolonial Studies, Critical Race Theory through Psychoanalytic frameworks, Gender Studies, Korean Modern History, and Fashion Studies.

  • Degrees

  • MA Digital Media, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2009; Honours BA Cinema Studies, University of Toronto, 2007
  • Experience

  • Womenswear Print Design Consultant, Ellery, Paris, FR, 2018; Menswear Print Designer, Alexander McQueen, London, UK, 2012-2017; Womenswear Print Design Consultant, Peter Pilotto, London, UK, 2011-2014
  • Awards

  • Student Travel Award, Design History Society, 2018
  • Conferences

  • 'Heterochronic Objects: Enabling Multiplicity as a Critical Method', Worlding Art History: Negotiating the Global and the Local, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 17 March 2018