Under Construction

Under Construction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class, and Consumption in the Republic of Korea

Edited by Laurel Kendall
Copyright Date: 2002
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wr277
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  • Book Info
    Under Construction
    Book Description:

    Since the late 1960s, the lives of south Koreans have been reconstructed on the shifting ground of urbanization, industrialization, military authoritarianism, democratic reform, and social liberalization. Class and gender identities have been modified in relation to a changing modernity and new definitions of home and family, work and leisure, husband and wife. Under Construction provides an illuminating portrait of south Koreans in the 1990s--a decade that saw a return to civilian rule, a loosening of censorship and social control, and the emergence of a full-blown consumer culture. It shows how these changes impacted the lives of Korean men and women and the very definition of what it means to be "male" and "female" in Korea. In a series of provocative essays written by Korean and Western scholars, we see how Korean women and men actively engage, and at times openly contest, the limitations of gender. Under Construction is part of a decisive turn in the anthropology of gender--from its early quest for the causes of female subordination to a finely tuned analysis of the historical, cultural, and class-based specificities of gender relations and the tension between gender as an ideological construct and as a lived experience. Firmly grounded in the political and economic history of south Korea, this long-awaited volume fills an important gap in Korean studies and East Asia gender studies in English.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6538-2
    Subjects: Economics, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-24)
    laurel kendall

    The title of this book is meant to be playful. “Under Construction” evokes the language of contemporary gender theory in its assertion that masculinities and femininities are perpetually constructed and reconstructed in the busy unfolding of histories (Butler 1993; Caplan 1987; de Lauretis 1987; Ortner 1996; Scott 1986). As a pun, “Under Construction” also evokes a palpable Korean condition. Since the late 1960s, the entire south Korean urbanscape has been quite literally under construction: torn down, rebuilt, extended, elaborated, reconfigured. Anyone who has lived in Korea in these years will have encountered that condition of modernity where, in Marshall Berman’s...

  5. 2 WOMEN, MOBILITY, AND DESIRE: NARRATING CLASS AND GENDER IN SOUTH KOREA
    (pp. 25-54)
    nancy abelmann

    In this chapter, I explore tensions in women’s personal narratives on class and social mobility. These narratives are both reflective and constitutive of south Korean popular and political discourses on contemporary history and social justice. I explore them in relation to a discursive contest over the relative openness or closedness of south Korean society.

    The belief in open mobility reflects a democratic ideology that celebrates the equal opportunity of every individual to succeed with the requisite hard work (Sewell 1985, 234). An extension of this ideology of opportunity is a tendency to attribute people’s variable social mobility fates to individual...

  6. 3 DISCOURSES OF ILLNESS, MEANINGS OF MODERNITY: A GENDERED CONSTRUCTION OF SŎNGINBYŎNG
    (pp. 55-78)
    june j. h. lee

    From my field diary, October 21, 1994:

    I was sitting in a taxi cab in the center of Seoul’s Kangnam District, south of the Han River. It was a rainy afternoon and I wasn’t prepared for the rain. What a stupid idea! Taking a cab on a Friday afternoon in a humongous city where you can expect rush hour traffic virtually 24 hours a day. Even more stupid was making an unforgivably naive decision to do fieldwork among Seoul’s privileged, affluent, and world-media savvy middle class families, and most particularly on their middle-aged¹ male heads. Preoccupied with the frustratingly slow...

  7. 4 THE PRODUCTION AND SUBVERSION OF HEGEMONIC MASCULINITY: RECONFIGURING GENDER HIERARCHY IN CONTEMPORARY SOUTH KOREA
    (pp. 79-114)
    seungsook moon

    A decade of gender studies has demonstrated that certain notions and practices of femininity and masculinity are constitutive of the smooth working of various institutions, as well as the individual sense of self.¹ This chapter is concerned with dominant notions and practices of masculinity and resistance to them in contemporary south Korea as it has been shaped in the process of rapid industrialization over the past three decades. My focus on masculinity is a response not only to the scarcity of critical studies on the subject, but also to recent representations in the Korean mass media of the “crisis” of...

  8. 5 GENDER CONSTRUCTION IN THE OFFICES OF A SOUTH KOREAN CONGLOMERATE
    (pp. 115-140)
    roger l. janelli and dawnhee yim

    The capitalist industrialization of south Korea and its concomitant cultural transformations present anthropologists with abundant opportunities but formidable challenges. The recent emergence of diverse occupations, institutions, class fractions, and lifestyles provides a multitude of new research sites and topics for ethnographic inquiry, but this very diversity seems overwhelming. How can we comprehend the advent of new social and cultural phenomena as well as their mutation before our very eyes? How do the new social phenomena articulate with each other and with the world economy with which south Koreans have become increasingly involved?

    Among the major institutions of modern south Korea...

  9. 6 THE CONCEPT OF FEMALE SEXUALITY IN KOREAN POPULAR CULTURE
    (pp. 141-164)
    so-hee lee

    Contemporary Korean women struggle against their Confucian cultural heritage as they search for their own sexual subjectivity. My discussion of female sexuality in Korea since 1993 takes the form of a cultural criticism. It focuses on the sociohistorical discourse and textual analyses of three novels, two films, and one television drama that were written, for the most part, by women. First, let me begin with my own experience of the term “sexuality.” I went to Britain for the first time in August 1986, as a British Council Study Fellow in the Faculty of English, Cambridge University. My topic was “Women...

  10. 7 LIVING WITH CONFLICTING SUBJECTIVITIES: MOTHER, MOTHERLY WIFE, AND SEXY WOMAN IN THE TRANSITION FROM COLONIAL-MODERN TO POSTMODERN KOREA
    (pp. 165-196)
    cho haejoang

    You probably are familiar with the celebrated story of south Korea’s miraculous economic transformation. You may not have heard the terrible story of its cultural transformation—a story about regressive changes in the roles and images of women in late twentieth-century south Korean society.

    When I came to the United States to do my graduate study in 1971, I was shocked by certain forms of women’s behavior. During my first semester at a Midwestern state university, I lived in a dormitory for female graduate students. On Friday nights at the dorm, inevitably one saw students looking as depressed as if...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 197-198)
  12. Index
    (pp. 199-208)