Eunjung Kim, PhD, is a scholar, teacher, and writer of disability, pain, illness, and trans-Asian feminist queer crip asexuality theories. She is an associate professor in the department of Women’s and Gender Studies and the department of Cultural Foundations of Education and Disability Studies Program at Syracuse University. Her work appeared in journals such as Catalyst, Sexualities, GLQ, and Social Politics, and in edited collections including Against Health, Intersectionality and Beyond, and Disability, Human Rights, and the Limits of Humanitarianism. Kim’s book Curative Violence: Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea published by Duke University Press (Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, National Women’s Studies Association, 2017; James B. Palaise Prize, Association for Asian Studies, 2019) examines what the social and material investment in curing illnesses and disabilities tells us about the relationship between disability and Korean nationalism. Writing disability theory in a transnational context, the book argues 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. Kim’s teaching interests include transnational feminist disability studies; theories of vulnerability and human/nonhuman boundaries; Korean cultural history of disability, gender, and sexuality; anti-violence feminist disability movements; Asian feminisms and women’s movements; critical humanitarian communications and human rights; asexualities and queer theories. She is currently working on a book-length manuscript on the representations of nonviolence, health justice, and the ecology of aging and dying in South Korea and beyond. She is also co-editing a book Crip Genealogies with Mel Chen, Alison Kafer and Julie Avril Minich.
A Crip Sensorial Ecology of Dying and Afterlife Companions
Kim’s project constructs an interdisciplinary archive on the notion of “dignity” and the individualized fear of “dying alone” invoked by the increasing number of unaccompanied deaths and unclaimed corpses in South Korean contexts. The neoliberal state continues to prioritize private families not only for the care of bodies experiencing debilitation, but also for the management of what happens after death. If we are to reimagine the future of aging and dying beyond the ableist understanding of dignity and what is considered a “good death,” it is essential to pay attention to the stories of people with disabilities in urban and rural poverty and to the need for nonfamilial companionship in dying as well as in mourning the dead. As a form of posthumous care, South Korean activists have started to develop community rituals for people who died alone with no kin to claim their bodies. Situating her research within contexts of social movements and professional discussions about desirable and undesirable conditions of death, Kim aims to also explore selected cultural texts on aging and debilitations with a focus on the portrayals of the embodiments of aging and their surrounding ecology. By developing a methodology that lies on what she calls an accompanist sensory presence, she attends to the on-screen and spatial interactions of sound, smell, sight, memory, textural and thermal senses, and other felt senses of companionship, including that provided by nonhuman lives and objects, at the end of and after a human life.