Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Consuming the modern: The everyday in colonial Seoul, 1915–1937
by Oh, Se-Mi, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2008, 299; 3333491
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines colonial modernity of Korea through the lens of visual, material, and consumer cultures in colonial Seoul. Through the examination of urban development, commercialization, nationalist discourse, and popular culture, it explores the ways in which the practices of consumption were closely intertwined with the formation of colonial discourse on modernity, the Korean nationalist attempt to rearticulate it, and the everyday negotiation by the urban residents of colonial Seoul.

Rather than deeming consumption in a colony as an anomaly or an unintended outcome of colonialism, this study proposes to look at it as an integral part of Japanese colonial discourse that appropriated modernity as a means of colonial control. Japanese colonial discourse promoted modernization of Korea as a way to incorporate Korea into the capitalist system of Japanese Empire while displacing it from within. By showcasing its achievements in exhibitions and urban design, Japan represented itself as the leader of Korea's modernity and simultaneously reproduced colonial difference in the temporal hierarchy between Japan and Korea. When visuality was the main mode of creating a spectatorship and desire, consumption in colonial Seoul was a symptom of a desiring subject attempting to overcome the restrictions of Japanese colonialism and to achieve the contemporariness with the global tide of modernity. This is noted in the ways in which nationalists intervened in the everyday by promoting consumption practices as a means of achieving a modern lifestyle suitable for nation building. This study contends, however, that nationalist discourse was embedded in the logic of capitalism and teleological history, which prohibited them from forging an alternative strategy from the colonial discourse. Instead, it locates resistance in the everyday celebration of the erotic, mysterious, and nonsensical. The urban residents of colonial Seoul utilized the modern industry of print culture and the circulation of gramophone recordings in destabilizing the effects of daily life structured by colonialism, modernity, and nationalism. The everyday in colonial Seoul was the site in which colonial control and nationalist contention converged, and therefore where the creative struggle was materialized by employing the very condition made available by colonial modernity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Haboush, JaHyun Kim, Armstrong, Charles
Commitee:
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: History
Keywords: Colonial, Colonial Seoul, Colonial modernity, Consumer culture, Japanese colonialism, Korea, Seoul, Visual culture
Publication Number: 3333491
ISBN: 9780549855989
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