An Ambivalent Gaze at North Koreans in Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang


This article discusses Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea as a case study of otherness, which serves to define “us” as un-othered at the expense of the complexity of “us” and “them.” In this travelogue, Delisle’s caricature (“the Delisle character”) exemplifies the absurdity and eccentricity of the North Koreans, thereby legitimizing their otherness from “our” perspective. A close reading of the text, however, leads to the recognition that the North Koreans are depicted as neither entirely isolated nor inhuman. Accordingly, Pyongyang, even if inadvertently, reveals the discrepancy between “our” constructed North Korea and the actual situation in the locale that the Delisle character observes but does not fully perceive. In doing so, Pyongyang reaffirms the need to examine both difference and sameness between “us” and “them,” inspiring a way of thinking that does not rely on otherness to understand people in different societies.

This article “An Ambivalent Gaze at North Koreans in Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang ” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 248 (2022): 74-92.

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