Performing Democracy in the Graveyard: The Gwangju Uprising, Mangwoldong Cemetery, and South Korea’s Affective Space for Democracy
March 3, 2023
What is the relationship between grief and politics? What does a performative history of Korean democracy look like? This talk centers on discussing the 1980 Gwangju Uprising by spotlighting the May Mothers as one of the most important figures in the history of advancing democracy in South Korea. Turned into one of the country’s most profound activists after losing their beloved from the uprising, the May Mothers are known for having staged spectacular activist performances by occupying the Mangwoldong Cemetery, local graveyard for the victims. This talk shows how the May Mothers turned the Mangwoldong Cemetery into the country’s most insurgent space for democracy. Drawing on ethnographic field research, this talk presents a history of what I call jesa activism – a commemorative activism that transformed jesa, memorial rites that is otherwise a private and familial ritual, into a massive public assembly that called for a more emancipatory politics.
Hayana Kim is an interdisciplinary performance scholar who examines artistic and activist performances in service of democracy in post-Yusin South Korea. Teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, she is a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Theatre and Drama at Northwestern University. This talk comes from her fourth publication, forthcoming in an edited collection with the University of Michigan Press, entitled Reclaiming the City.
This virtual event is organized by Min-Jung Kwak (Geography and Environmental Studies, Saint Mary’s University).
This virtual event is organized by the Korean Office for Research and Education (KORE) at York University, which is funded by the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS). This event is co-sponsored by the Asian Studies Program at Saint Mary’s University.
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