[KS] women ph.d.'s in korean history

Steven Capener sotaebu at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 19 12:22:41 EST 2005

Dear list members,
Two points regarding Ms Palmer's assertions regarding the lack of women in Korean history PhD programs and faculty positions, and the effect this may have on so-called male-oriented or dominated  historical narratives. First, it is interesting that she comments on the possibility of women being relegated to the fields of language and literature by putting the word 'relegated' in quotation marks. Is she saying that that is happening or not? If so, support, such as when, where, and by whom, should be provided. Otherwise, such an approach is disingenuos at best. Second, following up on Ms Sherrill Davis' remarks questioning the assertion that history is more difinitive( than other disciplines) in creating a historical framework, in my PhD course work at Yonsei Univiversity in Korean literature, most of the dissertation proposals( mostly by women) use literature as a historiographic or sociological tool for interpreting Korean society at large. These proposals seem to me to be evaluated
 on the criteria of originality and defensibility rather than the gender of the author. It is my understanding that such authoritative writings are as instrmental as any other in creating historical frameworks in Korea and out, assuming of course, that one can read academic Korean texts. Ms Palmer suggests that Professor Leyard's response to her comments is defensive. This is not suprising when one takes into account the fact that the language used in proposing the issue in the first place (see my first point) was designed to illicit such responses . A more convincing approach to this would have been less speculative on the part of Ms Palmer and would have identified women who have tried to study in the field of Korean history only to be "relegated" to other fields.
Steven D. Capener

karen palmer <karen_palmer01 at yahoo.com> wrote:
Dear Prof. Ledyard,
Your response below seems a bit defensive, so perhaps this discussion is hitting a sensitive nerve...The UW program of study has been around for over 30 years, as a case in point, and it took approximately 3 decades to produce or encourage and promote a single female scholar in the field. That certainly is arguable against the Columbia case, rather than to support the argument that women are somehow ready to outnumber men in the field, as the culture at any given insitution also has a certain influence in such outcomes. It also raises the question whether the fact that women are so avidly pursuing advanced degrees creates some amount of hostility at particular insitutions or within certain subcultures within those institutions, as some female professors have asserted in speculating about the effect of the fact that women currently outnumber men in attaining undergraduate degrees at major institutions. This is not to accuse but merely to pay attention to the pertinent facts of the
 matter and to possible attitudinal differences from institution to institution as well as within the field as a whole.
Karen Palmer

gkl1 at columbia.edu wrote:
Mark Peterson and Charles Armstrong have well noted the number and
importance of female historians in the Korean Studies field. I
might add two more Columbia PhDs in Korean history: From the '70s
there is Ellen Salem, whose important study of Koryo slavery is
frequently cited, and whose work on the Later Three Kingdoms period
is still very well worth reading. Ellen was a member of that
unfortunate Korean studies generation, males and females alike, who
got their PhDs and ran into the wall of the '70s funding crisis in
academe, although many of them distinguished themselves in
unanticipated careers. Ellen became a successful economic analyst;
others in that cohort went into business, government and diplomacy.
Mihwa Lee Stevenson earned the highest distinction for her 1999
Columbia dissertation "Webs of Significance: Representation as
Social Transformation in the Muraled Tombs of Koguryo," an
important study; many of us are impatiently awaiting its
publication. Mihwa is a professor of Korean history at the
University of Kansas.
The Columbia program presently has many female PhD candidates in
Korean history, and in this it is no different than the programs at
the other major Korean studies centers in the US. It would seem
that, if there is a gender imbalance against females in the Korean
history profession, it will soon disappear, as Charles has already
suggested. Indeed, it is almost certain that it will turn into a
gender imbalance against males.
But frankly, I'm a little suspicious of the idea of gender
imbalance as a criterion in analysing our field. Even the oldest
among us males have matured in academic environments in which the
women's movement has thrived, and not incidentally taught us all a
lot (my own professorial career began in 1964). Like many of my
male colleagues, I worked hard to bring women's perspectives into
all my courses, and I know I am not unusual in that. I have a major
piece of research in women's history which will be in print by the
end of this year, and I would hope that women's studies specialists
will see in it something that might qualify as "the creation of new
knowledge regarding historical frameworks"; that indeed is my
ambition. The whole idea is that we all, males and females, live
together and work together; neither sex has a monopoly on the
understanding of its own, and neither can afford to do without the
critical perspective of the other. What we want to achieve is a
total understanding of Korean history and society, one that does
justice to all the men and women who constituted that society and
made that history.
All of us know of male academics who have been insensitive to the
importance of women's perspectives, but in my time I have seen their
numbers steadily dwindle. My years in a major East Asian Studies
program include a lot of experience in recruiting female graduate
students and in hiring and promoting female professors, and I am
only one of thousands who have the same experience.
In that light, it is discouraging to see suggestions of male
manipulation against women in training and hiring future
generations of Korean historians. The idea that male professors have
"encouraged" more men than women to pursue Korean historical
studies, much less have actually succeeded in such schemes, is at
the very least disrespectful of women who, wanting to be
historians, would welcome or accept such discouragement. I do admit
to shamelessly having tried to encourage language and literature
students of both sexes to consider history. One of my biggest
successes in this was JaHyun Kim Haboush (Mark, note the correct
spelling), who came into the Columbia program wanting to specialize
in Korean literature. Our program gave degrees in "East Asian
Languages and Cultures," so our program always had a high degree of
flexibility in whether students would end up writing their
dissertations in history, literature, linguistics,
religion/philosophy, or whatever. When I saw that JaHyun was
becoming more interested in history, I did indeed "encourage" her.
She is certainly one of the major historians of Korea in the world
today, but as a scholar she in no way abandoned literature, and it
has been an important dimension of her historical work. The point
is, she defined herself, both as a student and as a professional
historian. She is presently the incumbent King Sejong Professor of
Korean Studies.
I very much doubt that any respectable female graduate student
interested in history would accept any "encouragement" (much being
"relegated") to go into literature if that was against her own
choice. The suggestion that male professors try such schemes as a
general rule is unworthy. The idea that they would actually succeed
in them is ludicrous.

Gari Ledyard

Quoting karen palmer :

> Dear Mark,
> While women are more broadly included in Korean studies in the
> fields of language and literature, it is my experience as well
> that women are directed more towards these fields and that male
> students are more likely to be encouraged to study history, which
> in turn is considered to be more definitive in creating a
> historical framework of human experience. While women may be
> "included" in such a sense, there seems to be no particular
> rationale for the gender imbalance in the creation of new
> knowledge regarding historical frameworks. Instead, there is
> possible implication that women are "relegated" to the fields of
> language and literature.
> Best,
> Karen
> Mark Arlen Peterson wrote:
> Greetings all,
> Concerning Ms. Palmers note:
> If we look at the question of gender balance in Korean Studies --
> more broadly than Korean history -- it looks a little better,
> well, .... in some ways. It's certainly more complex.
> First, in regard to history, Martina Deuchler has retired but is
> still working and writing. The Korean history positions at
> Harvard (Kim Sun Joo, as mentioned) and at UCLA and the
> University of Utah are all held by UW female PhD. Harvard has
> given PhD's in history to Susan Shin and Sherry McCullough as
> well as Martina Deuchler. Hesung Koh has worked in history, but
> I'm not sure what her PhD was in. Law? Legal history?
> Anthropology? Pae Hyungil at UC Santa Barbara has a PhD in
> history/archaeology from Harvard. At at Columbia, we must cite
> ChaHyun Kim-Haboush as a major figure at a major institution.
> If we look at language teaching, the opposite imbalance is
> obvious -- more females. At AATK meetings (American Assocation of
> Teachers of Korean) there are very very few male teachers.
> Linguistics PhD's go disproportionately to females, it appears,
> with major positions at George Washington and UCLA held by women.
> Political Science is really lopsided on the male side. I think
> there is only one practicing female PhD in political science.
> Here there may be grounds for complaining, but maybe not in
> history.
> Anthropology has more females, Laurel Kendall, Linda Lewis, and
> if we include ethnomusicology, Hillary Finchum at ICC in San
> Francisco, there are perhaps more females in this field than
> males. ???
> Literature is fairly evenly balanced, isn't it?
> So, Ms. Palmer, there may be an imbalance in Korean history but
> the wider field of Korean Studies is closer to the golden mean.
> At least, that is this observer's cursory conclusion.....
> with best regards,
> Mark Peterson
> -----Original Message-----
> From: karen palmer
> To: Korean Studies Discussion List
> Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005 11:53:16 -0800 (PST)
> Subject: [KS] women ph.d.'s in korean history
> It appears that the field of Korean history in terms of academic
> positions held and even in numbers of Ph.D.s granted is heavily
> male-dominated. Wasn't Kim Sun Joo the first female Ph.D. to come
> out of the University of Washington, and isn't that a bit of a
> late start in encouraging female scholars in this area? In my
> opinion, it's a loss to the overall quality and scope of academic
> research in history when women's voices are left out. It would be
> strange to assume there were no women capable of or interested in
> a particular subfield of history while overall women have come to
> outnumber men in Ph.D.s granted in humanities and social
> sciences. Although it involves the study of several languages,
> Korean history is not rocket science, and women do not generally
> self-deselect in these areas.
> In contrast to the University of Washington, which academic
> institution has shown a better track record in terms of
> encouraging female scholars, and what are the numbers and ratios
> involved?
> Karen Palmer
> (prospective graduate school applicant in korean history)
> caprio wrote:
> You should look at Kim Sun Joo's dissertation.
> I do not have the title with me but she looked
> at the 1812 rebellion and talks about discrimination.
> It was completed in 2000 at the University of Washington.
> Good Luck,
> Mark Caprio
> Rikkyo University
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