Seeking Asylum, Finding God: Religion and Moral Economy of Migrants' Illegality

Jaeeun Kim, Stanford University
Jaeeun Kim
Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Thomson Hall 317

The literature on immigration and religion has recently focused on how religion provides an alternative imaginary geography of belonging beyond the nation-state. Such works have analyzed how membership in a faith community provides illegal migrants de facto local citizenship or a sense of belonging to a “transnational” community of faith, despite their exclusion from the “national” citizenry in their state of residence. This talk will discuss the hitherto underexplored question, namely, how asylum procedures in contemporary immi-gration states prompt a certain group of migrants to take on a particular religious identity in pursuit of legal status. Drawing on ongoing research on the migration careers, legaliza-tion strategies, and conversion patterns of ethnic Korean migrants from China to the Unit-ed States, the speaker shows that asylum-seeking is a contingent, temporally unfolding, and interactive process, guided by everyday pragmatism, shifting state policies, and vari-ous middlemen informing migrants’ perception of these policies. Kim also shows how reli-gious institutions--which have developed distinctive understandings of the nation, the community of faith, and divine justice--get involved in, respond to, channel, and give meanings to this particular legalization strategy, and how the newly acquired religious identity reshapes these migrants’ “cartography of belonging,” through which they reimag-ine their place in the states of origin and residence and in the transnational community of faith.

Jaeeun Kim is a postdoctoral fellow at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Cen-ter at Stanford University for the 2012-13 academic year. Before coming to Stanford, she was a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University for the 2011-12 academic year. She specializes in political sociology, ethnicity and nationalism, and international migration in East Asia and beyond, and is trained in comparative-historical and ethnographic methods. Kim’s publications include articles in , , and . Kim holds a BA in law (2001) and an MA in sociology (2003) from Seoul National University, and an MA (2006) and PhD (2011) in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She will be an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at George Mason University, beginning in fall 2013.

Hosted by the Center for Korea Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.

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