Daily Archives: 28 December 2003

A Korean Anthropologist in Dixie

The following book excerpt is for my blogfather, Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind. It comes from One Anthropologist, Two Worlds: Three Decades of Reflexive Fieldwork in North America and Asia (University of Tennessee Press, 2002) by Choong Soon Kim, author of An Asian Anthropologist in the American South: Field Experiences with Blacks, Indians, and Whites (U. Tenn. Press, 1977; out of print), Faithful Endurance: An Ethnography of Korean Family Dispersal (University of Arizona Press, 1988), and Japanese Industry in the American South (Routledge, 1995).

As I live longer in the South, the more I like the region…. My comfort in living in the South does not necessarily stem from my lengthy sojourn in the South; rather it reflects my rural background during my childhood in Korea. The American South and Asia have some similarities. As John Shelton Reed once said, “Somebody once called Charlestonians [meaning southerners] ‘America’s Japanese,’ referring to their habits of eating rice and worshipping their ancestors, and the Southern concern with kin in general is indeed well known.” Nowadays, if I travel outside the South, I become uncomfortable and worried, and have culture shock. My feeling of marginality is even more severe when I go to Korea than when I am in the South. This has become more the case now that I have made a deeper commitment to the South and have three southerners in my family–two sons who were born, grew up, and were educated partly in the South, and a daughter-in-law who is a white, native southerner. All these factors lead me to think that my living in the American South is not a historical accident. It feels more and more like karma.

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Anna May Wong

Today’s edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin carries a long, interesting, illustrated feature story by Nadine Kam on the pioneering Asian American film star Anna May Wong (1905-1961). The timing of the feature coincides with a screening of Wong’s silent-era film Piccadilly at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and more generally with Palgrave Macmillan’s marketing blitz on behalf of a new biography of her by Colgate University professor Graham Russell Hodges entitled Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend scheduled for release in January 2004. (This announcement has been brought to you by yet another witting shill for Palgrave Macmillan.)

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Medici fara frontiere

According to an article from the Romanian newspaper Evenimentul Zilei translated in the wonderful Czech resource Transitions Online:

Between 10 and 20 percent of Romanian doctors under 35 years of age are leaving their home country every year, according to an estimate by the Romanian Doctors College (CMR), the country’s main professional medical society. They head chiefly to the United States, but in the past several years increasing numbers have chosen France and Germany, countries that are opening their hospitals to foreign workers due to the lack of local specialists….

Paul Doru Mugur, 34, a native of Romania’s second-largest city, Constanta, has been working as a doctor in New York since 1996. He heads the oncology and hematology department in a public hospital. In 1991, during his fourth year of university, he left Romania for France on a Tempus scholarship awarded by the European Community. He finished his studies in Paris.

“I’ve had the opportunity to get to know three medical systems very well: the Romanian one–a tribal system characterized by influence, bribes, and the mentality that the doctor is a small god; the French one–a bureaucratic system characterized by a rigid administration where the doctor is a clerk; and the American one–a business-based system where our patient is our client and the doctor is a businessman,” Mugur said.

In 1983-84, when a single pack of Kent cigarettes could magically change a bureaucratic nu to a da, doctors required a whole carton–or a bottle of imported whiskey, or a kilo of imported coffee, or the like. The only people who actually smoked the Kents received in bribes were said to be doctors or security officials. Everyone else just used them to bribe someone else up the line. Once, an older man who had struck up a conversation with me during a long train ride offered me a cigarette from his open pack of Kents. I didn’t have to ask who he worked for.

Fortunately, those days are long gone. Bribes are now in convertible currency rather than in bartered goods.

In Romania, as a beginner, you’re not allowed to touch the patient because then the patient doesn’t know which doctor he should give the envelope with the cash to.

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