“Mom I want to come home": Geographies of self, place and displacement

Authors: Ronald Davidson*, California State University, Northridge, Orhon Myadar*, University of Arizona, School of Geography and Development
Topics: Cultural Geography, Asia, Gender
Keywords: Gil Won-ok, comfort women, geographical self, place and self, gendered violence, displacement
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This article focuses on former “comfort woman” Gil Won-ok’s story to explore the dialectical relationship between place and self, or what Edward Casey calls the “geographical self”. Gil was one of thousands of women who were used as sex slaves by the Imperial Army of Japan at “comfort stations” during World War II. Taken from her hometown of Pyongyang when she was fourteen years old, Gil endured years of compounding violence in displacement away from her family and homeland. Today, at age 92, Gil still does not know what happened to her family as the division of Korea prevented her from returning home, extending her displacement. Despite the scale and brutal nature of this state-sponsored violence against thousands of young women and girls, geographic scholarship is critically lacking in addressing this violence. We hope to fill this gap. Theoretically, the article contributes to the broader literature on the dyad of place and self, and we do so by broadening the discussion of the geographical self to better understand the violence of displacement and longing for one’s lost place. But most importantly this article would make a modest contribution of recognition to Gil’s long struggle and perseverance.

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