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Title: Philosophizing against Hegemons: Humanities Studies and the Politics of Reading in South Korea
Authors: Nam, Shinjung
Advisors: Greenhouse, Carol J.
Rouse, Carolyn M.
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: Ethics
Intellectual Culture
South Korea
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Asian studies
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Based on two years of ethnographic research in Seoul and In’chŏn, South Korea, this dissertation explores what I term “para-academic” institutions of adult education, flourishing under the common denominator “humanities studies” outside of the official schooling grounds, that compete for the power to shape the public discourse of ideal citizenship. In 1997, the South Korean government developed a strategy for transitioning the state into “a knowledge-based economy,” a solution to the country’s financial crisis. Part of the strategy was increasing the role of mega-corporations in the administration of universities and forcing out humanities curricula based on the policy assertion that the humanities are economically inefficient. Counter to this top-down measure and to revive and renew the country’s tradition of underground reading for sociopolitical change, groups of philosophers have organized, since 2000, non-degree awarding schools for so-called “citizens’ humanities studies” (simin inmun kangjwa) along the margins of campus towns in Seoul. Their pedagogy of post-Marxist contemporary philosophy has appealed to adults with intimate memories of the 1980s Marxist student activism, also known as “social science studies.” In reaction to the growth of the informal schools for the citizens’ humanities studies in Seoul, the South Korean government, corporations, and the leaders of official higher education have taken the discourse of the humanities, redefined its value according to its utility to economic development, and rebranded it as a commodity now managed and sold by Lotte Culture Centers and Samsung “akademis” located at the top floors of these companies’ mega-malls. My ethnographic analysis of these “para-academic” humanities studies in South Korea shows that informal adult education constitutes an intense field of politics over the power to shape the social language of ideal citizenship, the nature of public space, and the everyday cultivation of civic values.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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