De/Militarized Ecologies: Making Peace with Nature Along the Korean DMZ

Eleana Kim
UC Irvine

Based on research conducted in South Korea between 2011 and 2016, with citizen ecologists, environmentalists, and natural scientists who study endangered species in areas south of the DMZ, this book offers “de/militarized ecologies” as an analytic for theorizing spaces of human-nonhuman worldmaking that are shaped by geopolitical histories and processes of militarization, but not wholly determined by them. “De/militarized Ecologies” accomplishes three primary tasks: 1) it brings militarization into historical and cultural analyses of the Anthropocene; 2) it argues that spaces like the Korean DMZ should be considered normative rather than exceptional to the contemporary planetary predicament; and 3) it makes a posthuman contribution to Cold War cultural studies by attending to the entanglements of humans and nonhumans in the context of national division, unending war, postcolonial politics, and decolonial aspirations. 

It focuses on three natural-cultural-technical assemblages – landmines, irrigation ponds, and migratory birds – to ask how the DMZ’s rare ecology fuels multiple political imaginaries of “peace.” These include state-centric discourses that instrumentalize nature for human ends, progressive environmentalist discourses that explicitly link “peace” and “nature” to “reunification,” and a more complex notion of “biological peace,” which becomes vital through relations of attentiveness, care, and experimental coexistence, paradoxically made possible by the DMZ.