Generation Congee

Published in The New Quarterly, Issue 158, 2021.

On a given day, the view from the sixth-floor of the BC Cancer Agency resembles a tourism advertisement of glass-towers pasted onto a backdrop of snowcapped mountains. The view of the North Shore mountains—easily mistaken as freshly dusted bundt cakes—was one of the highlights of our biweekly chemotherapy appointments. But my parents never noticed the view, nor did they comment on the crisp rays of sunshine reflected on multi-million-dollar shoeboxes or the steady flow of traffic on the Cambie Street Bridge that resembled cells moving through the arteries of the city. Their solemn faces and hushed immigrant voices were indifferent to the therapy dog named Sam or the volunteer operated beverage cart that makes the best hot chocolate west of Main Street. 

Legal Limbo: Revising Canada’s Approach to Refugees

Ricepaper Magazine: Asian Canadian Arts and Culture, 16.3, 2011.

An acquaintance of mine once asked where I had parked my Mercedes. My initial response was that I didn’t own a Mercedes or a car for that matter. He responded with utter confusion, “Aren’t you Chinese? I thought all the Chinese in Vancouver drove a Mercedes.” Although I was initially taken aback by his comment, his accusation concerning the socio-economic standing of the Chinese in Vancouver forced me to think about how ethnic groups are constructed in the backdrop of Canadian immigration. Is he right? Are all the Chinese driving luxury cars? If so, why am I still riding public transit?

Secondary Trauma: Reconciling Children born of Wartime Sexual Violence and the Children’s Rights Regime

Chapter in Rape Cultures and Survivors: An International Perspective.

Children born of wartime sexual violence occupy an invisible non-space in regards to their ability to rightfully access the rights set out by the international child protection regime. Their precarious and complicated identities as children outside the existing norms will reveal how the main document protecting children’s rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, relies on a particular form of childhood that may not best represent the experiences of war babies. Childhood, as defined by the existing children’s rights regime, heavily relies on childhood protection through membership with a state, a community, or a family. Consequently, many children born of wartime sexual violence are often stateless, raised in orphanages, or ostracized by their birth community thus limiting their chances to gain access to rights. As this chapter will reveal, the precarious identities of children born of wartime sexual violence places them in situations where basic membership as rights-bearers may be in direct conflict with the interests of their mothers and their birth community.  

No Place for a War Baby: The Global Politics of Children Born of Wartime Sexual Violence

Routledge, 2013

Donna Seto investigates why children born of wartime sexual violence are rarely included in post-conflict processes of reconciliation and recovery. The focus on children born of wartime sexual violence questions the framework of understanding war and recognizes that certain individuals are often forgotten or neglected. This book considers how children are neglected sites for the reproduction of global norms. It approaches this topic through an interdisciplinary perspective that questions how silence surrounding the issue of wartime sexual violence has prevented justice for children born of war from being achieved. In considering this, Seto examines how the theories and practices of mainstream International Relations (IR) can silence the experiences of war rape survivors and children born of wartime sexual violence and explores the theoretical frameworks within IR and the institutional structures that uphold protection regimes for children and women.

“Feminist IR scholarship posits that much can be learnt from studying those actors seemingly most marginal to the high politics of war and security. Children born of wartime conflict symbolize both the complexity of conflict and the suffering that is engendered by conflict – and that is ongoing. International relations and human rights researchers and advocates have documented the pervasive use of sexual violence as a tactic of conflict but they have omitted to make visible the children who are born from this wartime rape. In this fascinating and compelling study, Donna Seto brings these missing children into our accounts of international relations, violence, and postconflict. In so doing, she models the responsibility of the scholar to attend to the exclusion and marginalization of subjects through research and critical analysis.” Jacqui True, Monash University, Australia

“Through feminist and post-structural perspectives, No Place for a War Baby opens up a new space for studies on children born of wartime sex violence. This book is a pioneering work that deserves a wide readership, especially among academics, students, policy-makers and activists who are interested in international conflicts, feminism theories and human rights.” The Round Table

 “… more than most books on gender and international relations, this one will well serve a broad readership. For scholars, it will fill a gap in IR analysis generally and feminist IR work (where it will be most relevant) specifically. It outlines critical conceptual, theoretical, and empirical problems, while alerting scholars that traditional accounts of global politics routinely overlook children born of war rape. For policy makers, the book’s careful revelation of problems in children’s rights policy provides a good basis for reevaluating gender inequities in conflict mitigation and post-conflict reconstruction.” Michigan War Studies Review 

“Children born of Wartime Sexual Violence and the Limits of Existence”

Peacebuilding, Vol. 3, No. 2.

Children born of wartime sexual violence are rarely included in post-conflict processes of recovery. Conceived of violence, these children are often marginalised and rejected by their mothers, community and nation. As a consequence, children born of wartime sexual violence are often subjected to infanticide, abandonment and social stigmatisation because they embody the identity of a ‘child of the enemy’ and a reminder to the nation of their suffering. By positioning children born of wartime sexual violence as a point of enquiry, this paper argues that a child born of wartime sexual violence is constructed as a symbol of collective victimhood and a spectacle to discipline a nation damaged by conflict. To reflect this argument, this paper will use Giorgio Agamben’s and Judith Butler’s work to explore how the recovering nation positions the child as a symbolic tool to construct a stable national identity while reclaiming sovereign power over a population. In doing so, this paper further questions how children born of war rape are able to engage in emancipatory practices within marginalised spaces.

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