Mégane Visette

Mégane Visette is an MA candidate in Political-Science and Asia-Pacific Studies and a Dr. David Chu Scholar at the University of Toronto. She has a BSc. in International studies from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) in Quebec. She speaks English, French, and is learning Japanese and Korean. Mégane’s current research focuses on soft power and cultural diplomacy across East Asia and Canada. Having previously lived in Europe and South Korea, Mégane is interested in the impact of political narratives on public opinion and its potential leverage on foreign policy through popular culture. She is currently on the organizing committee for the Munk School of Global Affairs Graduate Conference, focusing on the concept of borders in flux, and is on the editors’ team of the UTJPS Journal at UofT. She previously held a position with the Humanitarian and Communitarian Action (AHC) organization at UdeM, helping to curate a cultural exhibition with an emphasis on engaged and politically staged art.

Abstract

Popular Narratives in North Korean Refugee/Migrant Testimonies and Social Changes: From National Stagnation to Transnational Fluidity”

Raising political significance to the recurrence of similar narratives in North Korean refugee testimonies, this essay emphasizes that our interpretation of facts is shaped by a stereotyped understanding of North Korea’s reality. When talking about the politics of narratives in consideration of International Relations, narratives play as much of a power tantrum than coercive forces. By acknowledging the importance of western narratives of the Other, we propose alternative prospects for North Korea’s IR, without simplifying the country’s relevance to Asian IR discourse as a challenge stuck in the Cold War. In fact, there are recurring alternative representations of North Korea (NK), which create the possibility for a new space of identity, to grow out of the nation-state framework of agency and dependency that usually frames the social mobility of North Koreans. With this context in mind, we ask the question “how do popular narratives about NK influence the North American discourse of social changes in the country”. This essay focuses on the content and the manner in which information about North Korea is articulated through refugee autobiographies, and we will open the discussion about what is at stake for such a representation in IR theory and what alternative approaches can we adopt in an effort to “deal” with North Korea in foreign policy[1]. The main argument pushes for the construction of alternative narratives through the transnationality of black market experiences and opportunities, transcending the national understanding of oppression and social stagnation, in the process of economic migration and exchanges across borders.

[1]Kang, David C. “They Think They’re Normal: Enduring Questions and New Research on North Korea- A Review Essay.” International Security 36, no. 3 (2012): 142-71. Pp143-144

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