Korean wig stores, with Jenny Wang Medina; and Hunger Games in Thailand


Welcome to the Terrordome!

This week, we have a brilliant guest, TTSG pal and Korean literature scholar Jenny Wang Medina, who grew up in her family’s beauty-supply store, to guide us through a mini-PhD on Korean hair, the Black hair market, and Cold War commodity history. Then, a brief look at the ongoing democratic uprising in Thailand.

0:00 – HAIR! * The New York Times’s coverage of the Na family and their Black hair shops in Chicago, one of which was destroyed in the recent Black Lives Matter uprising, launches us into an exploration of harvested hair, nation building, migration, and race relations, from Hong Kong and South Korea to India and Sacramento, CA, where Jenny’s brother now runs her parents’ 40-year-old wig-turned-beauty-supply stores. To enrich our discussion, we draw on a very sharp “commodity history” of Korean hair, by Jenny and Andy’s friend, Jason Petrulis.

How did Jenny’s family, and so many other Korean immigrants, come to dominate hair and beauty-supply markets for Black American women? And how does the intimate nature of hair and beauty products shape race relations?

What role have hair exports played in the developmental economics of Hong Kong, South Korea, and, more recently, India and Indonesia? How did US Cold War policy shape these markets?

1:14:30 – THAILAND! * In a new segment called “Something you should know,” a.k.a. “What Tammy forced Jay and Andy to talk about,” we bring you an update from Thailand, where a democracy movement that began in 2014, after a military coup, has recently exploded on the streets.

We discuss the aims and culture of these Thai protests, the nature of Thailand’s (ostensibly) constitutional monarchy, the economic effect of the pandemic on the nation’s tourist economy, how the current prime minister and monarch are different from those who ruled a decade ago, and the Milk Tea Alliance—the pro-democracy bonds among Thai, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese youth online. (Thanks to TTSG friends Reena and Nick for their insights.)


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