Practicing nationalism : culture, technology, and national identity in contemporary Korea



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This thesis consists of three case studies on Korean nationalism: the ‘Korean Wave,’ the relationship between technology and nationalism marked by the ‘iPhone fever,’ and ‘Hines Ward syndrome.’ The three cases and the scant attention paid to them are symptoms of both the profound changes in and the ascendancy of nationalism in contemporary Korea. Taking Korean nationalism as a discursive formation, not as a pathology or a necessary manifestation of national sovereignty, this study challenges the dominant concept of the Korean nation as a real entity. To examine these pertinent cases is an indispensable element in this study’s attempt to avoid the essentialized and fossilized understanding of the Korean nation and nationalism. By analyzing a wide range of discourses on the cases, this thesis seeks to capture the multilayered appreciation of Korean nationalism. The Korean Wave has been one of the most predominant discourses in which a set of heterogeneous cultural commodities, the Korean Wave, is represented as a demonstration of the Korean nation’s cultural potential. One of the purposes of this thesis is to deconstruct this naturalized link between culture and place. This study also rejects the deep-rooted belief in the relationship between technology and national development. Technology and science in Korea do not inherently belong to the pure realm of Truth. Technology and science have been reproduced and constructed as a driving force for and/or an indicator of national development, not only by the national elites but also by ordinary Koreans. Whereas Hines Ward as a marker of unstable boundaries of the Korean nation appears to pave the way for the elimination of long standing discrimination against mixed-blood (honhyeol) people, the unquestioned links between race and culture as well as place and identity are still prominent even in multiculturalism as an alternative to the label of honhyeol. Based on these findings, this thesis argues, despite the pronouncement of the popular globalization thesis envisioning the death of nations and nationalism, that Korean nationalism continues to exist as a center of everyday discursive practices.