Thursday, June 3, 2010

Characterizing without Essentializing

For my research it is important that I present my readers with an outline of South Korean social, political, and managerial, culture.

However I am hesitant to trot out the standard descriptions of communality, hierarchy, and formalism. Korean culture, like any other, is complex so how I chose which elements of it to highlight is ultimately not just a reflection of Korean culture, but of me.

However it is interesting that most Korean writers, when speaking about these matters, do not share my hesitancy. Instead they make very clear, and to their minds even "objective," statements about what Korean culture is and what it is not.

Though this is an interesting phenomenon and certainly says something important about the Korean authors themselves and their culture, it only makes me more hesitant.

Because I believe that culture is something that we create and sustain through defining and contesting narratives about ourselves, should I simply take Korean accounts of Korean culture at face value or should I recognize that these accounts are not merely reporting reality but also attempting to create it? Should I be actively seeking out alternative narratives that haven't received as much attention, or would doing so simply distort a representative portrayal and really be motivated by my own attempts to perform a different Korean culture in my own narrative because of a personal antipathy for elements of the Korean culture being performed by most Korean authors in their narratives? (hierarchy isn't my thing).

What do you think?

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