“We’re Never Off Duty”: Empire and the Economies of Race and Gender in the U.S. Military Camptowns of Korea

Sue-Je L. Gage, Ithaca College
Flags in a U.S. military camptown, South Korea, 2006. Photo taken by the author.
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Abstract

This article focuses on the relationships between the U.S. military, race, masculinity, and power in South Korea. I argue that notions of empire are played out in off-base interactions among U.S. soldiers themselves, but also between U.S. soldiers and non-U.S. military others, particularly in the post-9/11 “war on terror” era. In these strategic interplays, soldiers often carry stereotypes held in the United States, but also reinforced by their identities and training as U.S. soldiers. Globalization trends and international relations also influence modes of communication and relations within this hierarchically ranked system and structure. This article discusses how power, gender, race, and racisms play out in the camptowns of South Korea by using an ethnographic lens to link the human face with empire.