Ecological Exceptionalism at the Border: Landscapes of Hope and Impossibility in the Korean Demilitarized Zone
Despite its name, the 60-year-old Korean Demilitarized Zone has more than one million soldiers facing off across the four-km-wide area and an equal number of landmines within it. Enduring national division makes the DMZ a naturalized feature and yet created an accidental ecological haven that reportedly contains the majority of the peninsula's biodiversity, including dozens of rare and endangered species, inspiring environmentalists, scientists, and politicians who frame it as a site of pure nature and a utopian space for the promotion of peace and life amid its long association with war, destruction, and political antagonism.
Eleana Kim (Anthropology, UC Irvine) frames the politics of nature around the DMZ as a form of "ecological exceptionalism," analyzing the appropriation of the DMZ's ecological value in the name of sustainable development. Her research also examines the residents, farmers, environmentalists, tourists, soldiers, and nonhumans that produce the DMZ's "nature" within the actual militarized infrastructure of the border, revealing the ways in which nonhumans increasingly mediate both anthropocentric and posthuman landscapes of hope and impossibility.