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Exploring Shamans in Modern South Korea

Posted on | October 30, 2009 | 1 Comment

Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF bookcover

UH Press published Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion by Laurel Kendall. Thirty years ago, Kendall did intensive fieldwork among South Korea’s (mostly female) shamans and their clients as a reflection of village women’s lives. In the intervening decades, South Korea experienced an unprecedented economic, social, political and material transformation, and Korean villages all but disappeared. Kendall attests, however, that the shamans not only persisted but are very much a part of South Korean modernity.

Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF makes the case for the dynamism of popular religious practice, the creativity of those called shamans, and the necessity of writing about them in the present tense. Shamans thrive in South Korea’s high-rise cities, working with clients who are largely middle class and technologically sophisticated.

Emphasizing the shaman’s work as open and mutable, Kendall describes how gods and ancestors articulate the changing concerns of clients and how the ritual fame of these transactions has itself been transformed by urban sprawl, private cars and zealous Christian proselytizing.

Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion is available from the UH Press website.

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