2020 Kyujanggak Booktalk Series: 11th Lecture

Hanna Kim's picture
January 8, 2021
Korea South
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Asian History / Studies, East Asian History / Studies, Ethnic History / Studies, Korean History / Studies

The International Center for Korean Studies, Kyujanggak, Seoul National University is hosting a booktalk series, which introduces a work in Korean studies to facilitate the exchange of views and information among scholars. We will have our 11th booktalk via ZOOM on January 8, 10AM (KST). If you would like to join, please register at https://forms.gle/8qpkFhQSGjyVJN746. Please write your full name and affiliation correctly on the Google Form. We will send you the details you need to log in one day in advance. Thanks in advance!

About the Author: Prof. Kyoim Yun (University of Kansas)
Kyoim Yun (PhD) is associate professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Kansas. Her research has led to published articles in the Journal of Korean Studies, Journal of Shamanic Practice, Journal of Folklore Research, Journal of American Folklore, and Journal of Ritual Studies. She also served as guest editor for the special issue of Folklore Forum on Folklore of East Asia. She has recently been working on ethnographic research on Temple-Stay, a short-term retreat program held for laypersons at Buddhist monasteries, in the context of the prevailing social malaise and happiness discourse in South Korea.

About the Book: The Shaman's Wages: Trading in Ritual on Cheju Island
How does one put a price tag on a séance?

Breaking from previous scholarship on Korean shamanism, which focuses on mansin of mainland Korea, The Shaman’s Wages offers the first in-depth study of simbang, hereditary shamans on Cheju Island, published in English. In this engaging ethnography enriched by extensive historical research, Kyoim Yun explores the prevalent and persistent ambivalence toward the practitioners, whose services have long been sought out yet derided as wasteful by anti-shaman commentators and occasionally by their clients. 

Intrigued by discord between simbang and their clients over fee negotiations, Yun set out to learn the deep-rooted legacy of condemning or trivializing the practitioners’ self-interests, from a Neo-Confucian governor’s purge of shrines during the Chosŏn dynasty to the recent transformation of a community ritual into a practice recognized through UNESCO world heritage status. Drawing on a wealth of firsthand observations, she shows how simbang distinguish ritual exchanges from more mundane instances of bartering, purchasing, bribing, and gift-giving and explains why ritual affairs are nonetheless inevitably thorny. This original study illuminates the intertwining of religion and economy in shamanic practice on Cheju Island. 

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