New Critical Korean Studies: Theory, Method, and Practice
Cluster Objectives: For the last two decades, Korean studies programs in North America and Europe have concentrated on creating a space in universities for the study of Korean history and culture. In contrast, this cluster envisions making Korea research a place to explore theoretical and methodological challenges in the humanities and social sciences, and a bridge for crossing the conceptual boundaries between Asia and other regions. Specifically, we engage with three topics to explore this new direction in Korean studies: 1) democratic politics, 2) popular culture, and 3) everyday life. We inquire into a new democratic possibility after mass politics (revolution, workers’ strikes) and identity politics, and ask about the viability of critiquing everyday domination and envisaging this critique as a basis for rethinking forms of democratic politics. We will explore the following questions. What is a viable form of democratic politics in the present? With distrust and repudiation of large-scale, mass-based politics of the modern era now prevalent, would a critique of everyday life be capable of creating a viable social change?
Many accounts of new capitalism and its culture abound. Industrial capitalism demanded the separation of public and private, engendering the ideology of a split self capable of moving swiftly between the productive, rational, and Machiavellian interaction to domestic and emotional interaction. In contradistinction, contemporary neoliberal capitalism brings the logic of the market and its fantasy of hyperrationality into the realm of emotion. This cluster aims to investigate new democratic politics which have emerged through the critique of neoliberal capitalism, and examine everyday life that has become once again a redemptive space of resistance today in the neoliberal turn. From the vantage point of this neoliberal present, we plan workshops and research which makes innovative contributions to the study of democracy, culture, and everyday life in South Korea. We will develop transnational, comparative and historical accounts of these changes by bringing scholars in Korean studies together with those in other regions and various disciplines in the proposed workshops.