Editor’s note: We discuss Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s book Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit this week on ecclesio.com. This review will be followed by an excerpt, and some questions I posed to Dr. Kim.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim has done a great service to scholars and the church through the publication of her new book, Colonialism, Han, and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave 2013). The slim volume addresses many of the key subjects needing theological and ecclesiological attention in our world today from a postcolonial, feminist, Korean-American perspective.
Kim asks important questions about how to live a sustainable life when we live with the “toxins” of empire, colonialism, consumption and greed. Her sections on colonialism, consumerism, globalization and postcolonial theory are helpful. She points to the ills that arise from people finding their value in what they own, to the point that their desires to have things results in the denial of basic goods to others. The good life is commodified, therefore, as even humans are through trafficking and the growing sense that the chief resource poor countries have to lend to the global economy is the cheap labor of their citizens. This leads Kim to critique the marketing and advertising industries, and the bent of industry and business to work to increase demand in order to encourage the purchase of consumer goods.
Kim’s discussion of “han” is among the most important contributions of the book. The relationship she draws between the unjust suffering of han and the suffering of the earth today could helpfully be put into conversation with the work of other ecotheologians. For the reader who is relatively new to the concept, her reference to the “One Ring” in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was very interesting.
In her final chapter, Kim turns to the Spirit’s transformative power in a search for solutions to the difficulties in which we find ourselves. She identifies good news from postcolonial theology’s approach to and search for new or forgotten sources for truth and goodness. Kim finds the Spirit in creation, and sees that the Spirit is active in transforming creation. She thus ends this book on a faithful and theologically coherent Gospel claim: that the Spirit of God is transforming us, changing how we perceive the world and challenging us to fight against that which is harming the earth – including and especially our own practices and lifestyles.
In reading this book, I often wanted more. The volume, including copious notes, is only 94 pages long. I am hoping that Dr. Kim will use this brief introduction to some really important and exciting ideas as a jumping-off spot, so that in her next works she will flesh out the arguments she started here. I am really grateful for this book and I encourage others to read it and be in dialogue with Dr. Kim’s arguments.
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Cynthia Holder Rich is a theologian, researcher, author and pastor. She has authored three books and her work appears often in peer-reviewed and denominational journals, in print and online. Cynthia is ordained a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She holds an MDiv from McCormick Theological Seminary, an MCE from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and a PhD in Theology and Development from the School of Religion and Theology (SORAT) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.