[KS] Koreanstudies Digest, Vol 106, Issue 39

Juhn Ahn jahn at umich.edu
Sat Apr 21 18:16:14 EDT 2012

Dear Frank,

Thank you for showing such deep interest in our conference. If possible, I would like to refrain from defining the key terms such as secular so that the conference participants can have more freedom to develop their own views on this topic. 

Personally, I am more interested in the assumptions (or, more specifically, the historical nature of the assumptions) that undergird the notion of the secular and also transgression. Just as the notion of "myth" changed on account of German Higher Criticism - I am thinking specifically of Talal Asad's more recent work and his observation that, as part of this secularization process, myth withdrew from the materiality of the senses into the spirit  - I am curious to know if we can see the same or at least similar assumptions at work in transgression as well. These assumptions (about agency etc.), I think, are critical to understanding the secular (which may not be something we should refer to in the singular).

I hope this is enough (for now) to sustain your interest and support in our conference.

Thank you again for the thoughtful comments and questions. Please let me know, if you have any further questions or suggestions.


Juhn Ahn
Assistant Professor of Buddhist and Korean Studies
University of Michigan
202 S. Thayer St. Suite 5145
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
jahn at umich.edu

On Apr 21, 2012, at 12:00 PM, koreanstudies-request at koreaweb.ws wrote:

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> <<------------ KoreanStudies mailing list DIGEST ------------>>
> Today's Topics:
>   1. Upcoming Symposium at SUNY Binghamton (Center for Korean
>      Studies) (Chungse Jung)
>   2. Transgression & secular values in Korea? (Frank Hoffmann)
> From: "Chungse Jung" <chungsejung at hotmail.com>
> Subject: [KS] Upcoming Symposium at SUNY Binghamton (Center for Korean Studies)
> Date: April 20, 2012 8:27:37 PM EDT
> To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Upcoming Symposium at SUNY Binghamton
> After Neoliberalism: Democracy and Class in South Korea
> Date: May 11-12, 2012
> Organized by the Center for Korean Studies and sponsored by the Academy for Korean Studies Grant for the Overseas Leading University Program for Korean Studies
> Keynote Speaker
> Hagen Koo (Univ. of Hawaii): “Class Restructuration after East Asia’s ‘Growth with Equity’”
> Roundtable: “Reassessing Democracy and Development in East Asia”
> Chair and Discussant: Fredric Deyo (SUNY-Binghamton)
> Kyung-Sup Chang (Seoul National Univ.): “Illiberal Bourgeoisie and Democracy under Late Development: The Korean or Asian Dilemma”
> SangJun Kim (Kyung Hee Univ.): “Overlapping Modernities and East Asia”
> Panel 1: “Democracy and Politics in Neoliberal Korea”
> Chair and discussant: Yoonkyung Lee (SUNY-Binghamton)
> Rakkoo Chung (SUNY-Albany): “The Third Wave of Democratization: Consolidation of Nominal Democracy?”
> Oh-Jung Kwon (Rutgers Univ.): “Hegemonic Discourse and Institutional Ethos in the Politics of the Korean Economic Crisis”
> Woo Chang Kang (NYU): “Electoral Cycles in Patterns of Tactical Allocation: The Analysis on the Intergovernmental Transfers in South Korea 1989-2008”
> Panel 2: “Class and Social Structure in Neoliberal Korea”
> Chair and discussant: SangJun Kim (Kyung Hee Univ.)
> Myung Ji Yang (Brown Univ.): “The Making of the Urban Middle Class in South Korea”
> SeongSoo Choi (Yale Univ.): “Occupational Mobility in the Economic Crisis: The Example of South Korea”
> Bongoh Kye (Cornell Univ.): “Population aging and socioeconomic development in South Korea”
> For more information, email Organizer Yoonkyung Lee (yklee at binghamton.edu) or Research Coordinator Chungse Jung (chungse.jung at binghamton.edu).
> From: Frank Hoffmann <hoffmann at koreaweb.ws>
> Subject: [KS] Transgression & secular values in Korea?
> Date: April 21, 2012 6:12:37 AM EDT
> To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Dear Professors Juhn Ahn and Nojin Kwak:
> Since this is not directly about the conference 
> itself (your 'call for papers' quoted below) I 
> changed the subject line.
> I am fascinated (but also partially confused) by 
> the terms you use. All this is also very 
> important for contemporary art. So I wonder if 
> you, or others on the list, could possibly 
> explain and discuss more about these terms and 
> how you define them?
> Let me start with this to explain why this is so 
> fascinating, but also why some of your 
> terminology is (until now) confusing: Wu Hung, 
> now at U of Chicago and one of the important 
> scholars in the area of theorizing contemporary 
> East Asian art, writes the following under the 
> sub-header "Subverting Painting":
> ----
> A chief strategy employed by many Chinese artists 
> to make their works explicitly "contemporary" is 
> to subvert established artistic genres and 
> mediums. Originating in Western avant-garde art, 
> this strategy of transgression is now prevalent 
> on a global scale (...).  "Experimental artists" 
> (...) from China (...) actively contribute to 
> this burgeoning international art. At the same 
> time, these artists attain their local identity 
> and respond to China's reality in their works--it 
> is in this sense that they can still be 
> considered "Chinese artists."  [Wu Hung, 2008]
> ----
> You all have seen those contemporary Chinese art 
> works, in/from the 1990 and early 2000s mostly, 
> may it be a Mao Zedong in depicted like Marilyn 
> Monroe looking like a work of American Pop Art, 
> or Song Dong's traditional classroom installation 
> showing pupils seemingly reading traditional 
> scriptures and books that, however, consist of 
> blank pages. You are also aware of, that what Wu 
> Hung calls "strategy of transgression," has also 
> inspired many critical voices stating that this 
> very strategy has become a market gimmick for 
> Chinese artist, helping them to sell their works 
> overseas, exactly because this "attain[ed] (...) 
> local identity" is exactly what the West is 
> expecting: large-scale Pop Art alike artwork with 
> often easy to understand, clear political or 
> social political messages, works that fit 
> perfectly into every U.S. corporate office 
> lobby--art that has a highly entertaining value, 
> is playful yet critical, local and global at the 
> same time, thus perfectly post-modern in its 
> concept.
> This same strategy is also widely be found in 
> music videos. See for example the music videos 
> from the successful Russian band 'Leningrad.' The 
> same "strategy of transgression" can bee found 
> here, also a perfect example of a post-modern 
> group, a post-modern Gesamtkunstwerk using all 
> the same strategies of quoting past culture and 
> politics (here, as in China, often socialist 
> phrases or typical situations, jokes, or genres 
> [e.g. reworking Vladimir Vysotsky song texts or 
> specific formats of performances, etc.]), binding 
> them into a transgressive strategy that thereby 
> attains local identity while being highly 
> entertaining and (often) having international 
> appeal.
> Two recent examples:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7NMsywVQhY
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPCyR-tR4_M
> Now, what I do not yet understand from your 
> conference (call for papers) announcement is how 
> you are using--in connection with "transgression" 
> and "contemporary Korea"-- all these terms: 
> "secular, "secularization," "demystification," 
> and the phrase "transgression as a secular 
> value." I do understand that "transgression" 
> seems originally, etymologically speaking, a word 
> related to theology. But it seems hardly being 
> used this way today when talking about 
> contemporary society. I therefore also have 
> problems understanding what you refer to with 
> "secular" and "secularization" when talking about 
> contemporary Korea--or "demystification." To me 
> these terms all make some sense when talking 
> about e.g. the 14th or 15th centuries in Europe 
> (or East Asia?), but I am at a loss in this case. 
> Please do not necessarily understand this as 
> criticism, I might just not understand how you 
> use these terms and would like to hear more.
> And a last note: my above examples from art and 
> video art as regards to the use of transgression 
> were not coincidentally from China and Russia, 
> and not from Korea. As most of us here on the 
> list I know much better about Korean culture than 
> Chinese or Russian, but I see relatively little 
> of applied "strategies of transgression" in 
> Korean culture, **if** compared to what's going 
> on internationally. A simple indicator: graffiti. 
> Graffiti, supposed to be sub-culture, has made 
> its way's to the modern art museums since a few 
> years. Some time ago I stumbled over a small book 
> on graffiti in East Asia, and the author who had 
> interviewed some of the Korean graffiti sprayers 
> pointed out that Korea was the only country he 
> had visited where graffiti art was not 
> provocative but rather decorative and trying to 
> please the passers by, and that was also what an 
> interviewed graffiti sprayer told him they wanted 
> to do. To me it would then possibly be a reverse 
> question--why are there so few Korean artists, 
> musicians, writers using strategies of 
> transgression in a society that has seen so such 
> huge social political and economic changes in 
> such a short period of time?
> This is a big topic, and a very interesting one! Thanks.
> Best,
> Frank
>> Perspectives on Contemporary Korea Conference Series 2
>> Call for Papers
>> Transgression as a Secular Value: Korea in Transition?
>> University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Oct. 26, 2012
>> Sponsored by the Nam Center for Korean Studies, University of Michigan
>> Crossing over limits, infringing the law, and 
>> ignoring convention are often cited as examples 
>> of transgression. In traditional Korea where 
>> religion played a vital role in demarcating 
>> social and personal boundaries transgressive 
>> acts (e.g. engaging in illicit sexual behavior, 
>> challenging gender norms, defying social 
>> hierarchies, defacing icons and symbols, using 
>> excessive violence etc.) often served as a 
>> critical means for testing these boundaries of 
>> social acceptability, identity, power, and 
>> truth. But what happens to these transgressive 
>> acts after the ³demystification² and 
>> ³secularization² of society? Do they become 
>> obsolete? If they still test boundaries, then 
>> whose boundaries do these transgressive acts 
>> test?
>> Taking cue from the proliferation of successful 
>> Korean films that take transgression as their 
>> central theme, the international conference, 
>> ³Transgression as a secular value: Korea in 
>> transition?,² hopes to bring together scholars 
>> from both the social sciences and humanities to 
>> address these and other similar questions about 
>> the significance of transgression in modern and 
>> pre-modern Korea. The chief objective of this 
>> conference is to investigate the possibility of 
>> reading the surging interest in transgression, 
>> which has arguably attained an air of sacredness 
>> in mainstream culture, as an instance of a 
>> search for a ³secular² value. The conference 
>> will therefore encourage its participants to 
>> ask, when and how did transgression become so 
>> desirable and consumer friendly (and not just 
>> possible) in Korea? And, should we associate 
>> this attitude towards transgression with ³the 
>> secular²?
>> The conference will explore the notion of 
>> transgression as a ³secular² value from a 
>> comparative perspective‹both temporal and 
>> spatial‹to underscore and contribute to the 
>> growing debate on the heterogeneous nature of 
>> secularity as a way of life. The organizers of 
>> the conference therefore welcome papers that 
>> critically examine transgression in either 
>> modern or pre-modern Korea and also papers that 
>> discuss transgression in a broader Asian or 
>> global context.
>> Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 
>> words to conference organizers at 
>> transgression at umich.edu by June 4, 2012. Please 
>> include name, institutional affiliation, and 
>> contact information.
>> Selected participants will be asked to submit 
>> completed papers by September 28, 2012.
>> The Nam Center for Korean Studies will award 
>> travel grants to accepted participants to defray 
>> costs of attendance. Lodging and onsite meals 
>> will be provided by the conference. Conference 
>> organizers plan to have selected papers 
>> published in an edited volume.
>> Organizers: Juhn Ahn (Department of Asian 
>> Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan, 
>> jahn at umich.edu) and Nojin Kwak (Nam 
>> Center/Department of Communication Studies, 
>> University of Michigan, kwak at umich.edu)
> --
> --------------------------------------
> Frank Hoffmann
> http://koreaweb.ws

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