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Fragments and Borders: (re)constructing ROK through Korean patchwork cultures

My work explores the (re)construction of Republic of Korea (1948 – present day) through Korean patchwork cultures. By examining Korean patchwork as different forms: jogakbo (a patchwork version of the Korean wrapping cloth, bojagi), patchwork fashions and finally, cosmetic surgery cultures as a metaphor for patchwork wrapping as skin, I explore ROK’s post-war reconstruction and national rebuilding, through material and corporeal forms that complicate the category of the Korean woman. By questioning the essentialising gender narratives of South Korean nationalism, I ask what Korean patchwork wrapping cultures reveal about the role of exterior artifice in the cultural imaginary, gender construction and utility. How does patchwork construct Korean womanhood through the decorative and the ornamental? How does Korean patchwork contribute to discourses of the ornament? What kind of agency exists through ornamentation? What does patchwork reveal about women’s labour, womanhood and the role of women in relation to ROK, as the nation-state?

Deploying feminist and decolonial strategies that emphasise reflexivity and polyvocality, my methods include primary object and archive record analysis that practice conventional methods of design history affected by my foregrounded subjectivity. Voices from designers, artists and curators provide expert perspectives contributing to the multiplicity of understanding Korean patchwork, while oral histories from women participating as consumers of Korean cosmetic surgery industry will form complicated, entangled, non-linear approaches to constructing Korean patchwork histories. Finally, I weave through my own personal and familial histories as autoethnographic research as a reproach to academic traditions, which have historically excluded voices of my likeness.

Situating ROK in local histories and ideological frameworks that connect to global geopolitical systems, I regard Korean womanhood through Japanese occupation (1910-1945) as colonial modernity, Cold War ideologies, postcolonial and decolonial readings of US neo-imperial presence (1945-presenting), and histories of gender framed by neo-Confucianism of the Joseon period (1392-1895).

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More about Christin

Christin Yu is an AHRC-funded PhD candidate in the History of Design department at the Royal College of Art in conjunction with the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her research interests include East Asian gender histories, decolonial and postcolonial studies, critical race theory and fashion and textile histories. Exploring historically excluded and marginalised voices through everyday objects, she aims to explore the histories of Korean womanhood. She works as a visiting lecturer at the RCA, as an associate lecturer at CSM, and as a print and textile designer. Her professional experience working as the menswear print designer at Alexander McQueen (2012-2017) and as a womenswear print designer at Peter Pilotto (2011-2014) have helped to develop a unique lens to view textile histories through making.

Goldsmiths, University of London (MA Digital Media)

University of Toronto (BA Arts and Humanities: Cinema Studies Specialist)

University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins (Associate Lecturer), 2020-present; Royal College of Art (Visiting Lecturer), 2020-present; Topshop (freelance Print Designer, women's), 2018 - 2019; gal-dem (journalist), 2017, 2018; Ellery ( Print Consultant, WRTW) 2018; Alexander McQueen (Print Designer, MRTW) 2012-2017; Magda Butrym (Print Consultant, WRTW) 2016; Peter Pilotto (freelance Print Designer, WRTW) 2011-2014; McQ (freelance Print Designer, WRTW) 2012; teatum jones (Print Consultant, WRTW) 2011; Alexander McQueen (freelance Print Designer, WRTW)

Design History Society (Student Travel Award 2018, Outreach & Events Grant 2019, Student Conference Bursary 2019), Elle Decoration (Shortlist for Best British Design Award 2013), University of Toronto (Norman Jewison Fellowship 2008)

LAHP Research Studentship

'on Violence: Materiality strand' PARSE biannual conference (November 2021), 'Gendered Threads of Globalisation' University of Victoria, Canada (TBC - postponed due to COVID), 'The Cost of Design' Design History Society annual conference (2019), 'The Agency of Korean Women' British Association of Korean Studies annual conference (2018), 'Worlding Art History: Negotiating the Global and the Local' Courtauld Postgraduate Colloquium (2018).