CIVIL SOCIETY AND RELATIONSHIP CULTURE: KOREAN AMERICANS' EXPERIENCE WITH THEIR ETHNIC COMMUNITY AND BEYOND
Lee, Susan Sohyun
Alford, Charles Fred
MetadataShow full item record
Along with the increase in interest in civil society among Political Theorists, there is the growing concern with the decline in community amongst Americans. Ethnic communities, however, are largely excluded from this discussion, though ethnic minorities are often found to be quite active in their communities and civil society. Diversity is hailed as an ideal, and we are uncomfortable with homogeneous groups, especially those racially/ethnically homogeneous; and yet, ethnic communities seem to be thriving. Using the Korean community as a case study, the overarching question of my dissertation is: What can we learn about building community from the Korean American community? Is the Korean community incompatible with a healthy and vibrant American civil society? Through interviews and participant observation of the second and 1.5 generation of Korean Americans in the Washington metropolitan area, I argue that there is more than common ethnicity to the livelihood of the Korean community, and that the relationship culture, the defining of oneself and others in terms of relationships, reinforces the obligatory nature of relationships that are in place within this ethnic community. I further argue that there are serious benefits the ethnic community has provided for its members, and that we need not categorically be uncomfortable with ethnic homogeneity, as diversity is not a good in itself. I conclude by acknowledging that Korean Americans are at a point in time that will not be repeated, and that while we do not yet know what the nature of the ethnic community will be for the third and later generations of Korean Americans, there is a glimpse of hope for compatibility between the relationship culture and a healthy American civil society.