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Ihntaek Hwang: National security as imagined through the organisation, immunity and beauty of the human body

Tampere University
LocationKalevantie 5, Tampere
City centre campus, Linna Building K103 and remote connection.
12.12.2023 10.00–14.00
Entrance feeFree of charge
Ihmishahmo tohtorinhattu päässään, musta siluetti violetin kuultamalla taustalla.
Across societies, tropes of the human body’s well-being have been central to imagining the security of political communities. Through unconventional representations of the human body’s organisation, immunity, and beauty, Ihntaek Hwang’s doctoral dissertation explores how reimagining the human body can also lead to reimagining national security.

How can we imagine less militaristic national security? Conventional wisdom indicates that the more military power there is, the more chance there is of national security and prosperity. However, unquestioningly prioritising military capacity to strengthen national security can erode democracy and limit imagination about ways to secure lives.

In this regard, Ihntaek Hwang raises the need to look inward to expose and challenge the dominant frame for imagining national security. He finds that South Korean conscientious objectors to military conscription can encourage such reflections. The universal male conscription in South Korea has continued since its introduction in 1949. Despite being criminalised for ‘jeopardising the military and national security’, conscientious objectors have ceaselessly expressed their opposition to the almost sacred belief that the military is necessary for national security. Through their public announcements of their intention to refuse conscription, conscientious objectors have provided various grounds for disrupting antagonistic, collectivistic, and state-centric understandings of peace and security.

Therefore, in his dissertation, Hwang contrasts his readings of the textual and visual materials produced by the South Korean state and conscientious objectors. Given that political communities have often been likened to the human body, he reads the materials in the light of three qualities of the human body: organisation, immunity, and beauty.

Hwang finds that while the South Korean state and the public imagine national security through conventional notions and sensibilities about the human body’s organisation, immunity, and beauty, South Korean conscientious objectors propose alternatives that can reimagine national security.

He engages the underexplored topic of how qualities of the human body, such as organisation, immunity, and beauty, can shape the imagining of national security. In doing so, he also provides a novel perspective to national security in South Korea while considering conscientious objectors’ narratives that do not immediately appear to contribute to collective survival.

Public defence on Tuesday 12 December

The doctoral dissertation of MIS (pol. sci.) Ihntaek Hwang in the field of peace and conflict studies titled Imagining National Security through the Human Body will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Tampere University at 12.00 o’clock on Tuesday 12 December 2023 on the city centre campus, Linna Building K103 (address: Kalevantie 5, Tampere). The Opponent will be Professor Mark Neocleous (Brunel University, London). The Custos will be Professor Tarja Väyrynen (Tampere University).

The doctoral dissertation is available online.

The public defence can be followed via a remote connection. (Zoom)