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Office Hours: John Palmer

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  • Sunny Jo
    Office Hours: John Palmer Professor Explores the Challenges of Korean Adoptees By Nate Lynch Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011 Updated: Thursday, March 3,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2011
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      Office Hours: John Palmer
      Professor Explores the Challenges of Korean Adoptees

      By Nate Lynch

      Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011

      Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 11:03

      Associate Professor of Educa­tional Studies John Palmer recently
      published "The Dance of Identities: Korean Adoptees and Their Jour­ney
      toward Empowerment." The book, which details the challenges facing
      Korean-American adoptees, was published by the University of Hawaii
      Press in October of last year. It is available for order at the
      Colgate Bookstore.

      Palmer first entertained the idea of doing the study as a doctoral
      student at the University of Iowa. However, as a Korean-American
      adoptee, he was wary of doing a study that would involve issues that
      were so personal to him.

      "I didn't want to do this study because it would involve my own life,"
      Palmer said. "But I wanted people to better understand the
      Korean-American adoptee. I felt that I needed to be better prepared,
      and I thought I would come back to it someday."

      Palmer eventually decided to revisit the idea as a way to meet with
      the leaders of the Korean adoptee community. As more and more members
      of the community expressed their desire to be part of the ethnography,
      his study be­came too large to treat properly in a couple of articles,
      and thus the book was born.

      As a Professor of Education at Colgate, Palmer devoted his study to
      understanding how racial minorities – the Korean- American adoptees –
      encounter the educational system.

      "It is an in-depth ethnography using on-site visits of these
      Kore­an-American adoptees," Palmer said. "My focus is on social and
      cultural issues and racial identity. If we can understand racial
      iden­tity we can understand how the minorities encounter the
      educa­tional system social and cultural foundations of education."

      Building off the concept of racial identity, Palmer explores the
      "identity awakening" that many Korean-American adopt­ees undergo.
      According to Palm­er, Korean-American adoptees can go through life
      without feeling a sense of belonging to either the Korean community or
      the white American community. This leads to a general sense of
      disempowerment which comes to define them. It is not until they find a
      connection with their fellow Korean-American adoptees and become
      empow­ered that they fully realize their identity awakening.

      "Throughout the entire com­munity, they [Korean-American adoptees] are
      viewed as or­phans," Palmer said. "You have this pity. Always pitied,
      never empowered. They become an­gry; this is what they are up against.
      Their disempowered identity is who they are."

      Palmer found solace in the dedication and enthusiasm of leaders in the
      Korean-American adoptee groups.

      "The dedication that these leaders had to these groups was inspiring,"
      Palmer said. "They were all volunteers. I just met some incredible

      Currently on sabbatical in Seoul, South Korea, Palmer has several
      projects underway. He re­cently turned in a manuscript on the
      influence that globalization has on higher education in South Korea.
      He has several articles forth­coming, and is currently occupied with
      some extensive work in in­stitutions of higher education in South

      "I'm looking at the develop­ment of multicultural education in South
      Korea. I've been asked to give lectures on multicultural per­spectives
      from the U.S. viewpoint," Palmer said. "I'm also going to be a
      consultant there. I'm hoping to have some influence on the poli­cies
      of multicultural education in South Korea."

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