No Choice but to Care
Performing Care to Survive in Korean Shamanism and Jeju Women
Keywords:Jeju, Korean shamanism, Korea, Religion
Care has been theorized in the context of equality and ethics in academia, with an effort to dismantle the gendered interpretation attached to the concept. In this paper, I study care ontology of Korean shamanism to investigate the ambivalences in care performance that complicates rather than nullifies the gender dimensions. The history of survival embedded in Korean shamanism shows the establishment of peripheral authority in the near-death realms, which is often occupied by women.
I conduct a case study of Jeju shamanism that responds to the island’s historical trauma whose justice work is still in process. The harsh survival stories that Jeju women and shamans share indicate that care functions as ontology and performance, bringing healing power regardless of religious doctrines. I examine Lamentations of the Dead, an act in Jeju shamanic ritual, to observe closely its ambiguous qualities that facilitate interaction with discursive space and time. I attend to the performative aspect of the shamanic ritual, whose improvisational necessity enables radical care uncharted by governmental censorship.
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