St. Olaf College Associate Professor of English and Director of Race and Ethnic Studies Jennifer Kwon Dobbs will deliver the fall Mellby Lecture on November 13.
Her lecture, titled “Race, Citizenship Regimes, and Intercountry Adoption from the South Korean Kijich’on to the U.S.-Mexico Border in the Era of Trump,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Viking Theater. It is free and open to the public.
“This lecture examines how intercountry adoption (ICA) permanently severs kinship between children and their families of origin in order to transfer these children across national borders,” Kwon Dobbs says. “I will draw linkages between two sites of ICA experimentation in response to nation-state anxieties about racial contamination.”
Kwon Dobbs will provide an analysis of ICA in South Korea’s kijich’on that led to the mass removal of mixed-race children and the curtailment of interracial, unwed, heterosexual kinship, and identify how ICA functioned to secure and expand both South Korea’s mono-racial citizenship regime and the post-World War II U.S. white-heteronormative formulation of “the good citizen.” She will also include the narrative of mixed-race Korean fosteree Russell Green, who was born in a kijich’on and whose story politicized transnational/transracial adoptee communities to organize the Adoptee Rights Campaign lobbying for citizenship for all adoptees.
“I will conclude my lecture by describing this movement’s challenges in light of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, which includes the weaponizing of ICA to deter the migration flows of Central American families across the U.S.-Mexico border,” Kwon Dobbs says.
Born in Wonju, South Korea, and adopted to Oklahoma, Kwon Dobbs is a first-generation college graduate with artistic and scholarly interests in poetry, creative nonfiction, journalistic writing, Asian diasporic literatures, and critical adoption studies.
An enthusiastic supporter of student writing and interdisciplinary studies at St. Olaf, Kwon Dobbs co-developed a sequenced creative writing curriculum in the English major and co-piloted Creative Conversation, a team-taught learning community focused on design thinking. Under her leadership, the college’s Race and Ethnic Studies program received grants to enhance its offerings looking forward to 50 years on the Hill in 2019.
Kwon Dobbs contributes to Family Studies, serves on the General Education Task Force, and advises the Asian American Student Union, Korean Culture Association, The Manitou Messenger, and the St. Olaf Student Government Association’s Senate Task Force on Anti-Racism. In 2016 TRIO/Student Support Services awarded her an “Above and Beyond” citation for teaching and mentoring, and the Class of 2018 selected her to deliver their last lecture.
Mentioned in The New York Times Book Review as “timely” and praised by World Literature Today for “an austere singing,” Interrogation Room is Kwon Dobbs’s most recent poetry collection. She is also the author of Paper Pavilion, and the chapbooks Notes from a Missing Person and Necro Citizens, translated into German and published in a bilingual edition. With Korean Danish artist Jane Jin Kaisen and Magnus Cardell ’18, she created a virtual reality poem titled “Monkey House” supported by a Digital Humanities on the Hill grant. Currently, she is co-editing Radical Kinships: An Anthology of Auto-Critical Writing and working on her third poetry collection.
About the Mellby Lecture
The annual Mellby Lectures remember St. Olaf faculty member Carl A. Mellby. Established in 1983, they allow professors to share their research with the public. Mellby, the “the father of social sciences” at St. Olaf, started the college’s first courses in economics, sociology, political science, and art history. He was professor and administrator from 1901 to 1949, taught Greek, German, French, religion, and philosophy, and developed the college’s honor system.