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[Korea Beyond Korea] Anthropologist stresses multidisciplinary approach for strong Korean studies

时间:2010-12-5 17:23:32  作者:뉴스   来源:과학  查看:  评论:0
内容摘要:NEW YORK -- Portrayals of shaman rituals or shrines in Korean dramas often give off a spooky or mena

NEW YORK -- Portrayals of shaman rituals or shrines in Korean dramas often give off a spooky or menacing vibe.

But 22-year-old Laurel Kendall felt none of that when she first encountered a shaman ritual, or “gut,” in the early 1970s in rural Korea.

“I was struck by how vibrant, colorful and exciting it was. The place was packed, and it was of course very intense,” the adjunct professor of anthropology at Columbia University and curator of Asian ethnographic collections at the American Museum of Natural History said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

A Peace Corps volunteer at the time, Kendall climbed mountains, studied a traditional mask dance called the Bongsan Talchum and followed the older women in her group to attend a ritual performed by shamans from the Hwanghae region of North Korea.

“To my surprise, women were at the center of it all, wearing robes and speaking as gods. Other women in front of them were engaging with the gods. For once, men were in the background," she recalled.

At one point, the shaman, as the god, walked toward a man in the corner, pulled him by the ear and gave him a tongue-lashing. Everyone was laughing.

“I thought, 'I can study this,'” said Kendall in her office at the museum. In high school, Margaret Mead’s book “Male and Female” had led her to pursue anthropology.

She spent three years in Korea, and her path was set.

Fascinated by the operation of gender in Korean popular religion, she has worked with and written about Korean shamans for nearly 30 years.

“Unlike in the world today where people go to 'gutdang' (ritual spaces) with just their sister or mother or best friend, in the village world, everyone would be at the gut. There would be a chorus of women talking back to the gods and supporting the sponsors (of the gut). They’d be the ones saying that a shaman is good or bad,” she said.

She also studied how weddings had changed over time in Korea as notions of gender, such as what a good woman or man is, gradually changed. She wrote about this topic in her 1996 book, “Getting Married in Korea: Of Gender, Morality, and Modernity.”

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