History | Colloquium in East Asian History
H675 | 2691 | Robinson


M 3:35P-6:30P BH221

"Readings in Modern and Contemporary Korean History"

Above section limited to graduate students with some knowledge of East
Asia.  A portion of the above section reserved for majors.

This colloquium is designed to prepare students for a "field" in modern
Korean history.  The focus of the course will be clusters of readings that
will track the major themes, controversies, paradigms, and issues within
the literature on modern Korea.  The field of modern Korean history is
inextricably linked with historical writing on China and Japan.  Hence
there will be a strong emphasis on comparative history.  By the end of the
course, participants will have mastered the general narrative of modern
and contemporary Korea; in addition, we will focus on common themes that
can connect our study of Korea in meaningful ways to modern China and
Japan.  As we shall discover, Korea is a fascinating case study that
illumines a number of different issues and problems that occupy historians
in the late 20th century.

Indeed, unlike Japan and China, there has been no "closure" on the
national narrative of Korea.  Korea in the late 20th century remains a
divided nation, a living relic of the bi-polar global order created during
the Cold War and which influenced most historical study of East Asia into
the 1980's.  Thus, debates centered on politicized narratives (alternate
visions of how the historical record legitimates two nation-states) still
rages in South Korea.  Western historians are only now shedding the
blinders of Cold War narratives that obscured our own understanding of how
Korea fit the general twentieth century experience in East Asia.  Thus,
new work is exhuming alternate narratives from beneath the weight of
tedious and narrow nationalist histories of Korea, and these narratives
are alive with insights that connect to new work on China and Japan.  This
is particularly true of histories that take a constructivist approach to
the issue of nationalism, seek beneath modernization theory for alternate
examples of an emerging East Asian modernity, or connect post World War II
Korea with insights drawn from post-colonial and post-modern theory.

Professor Robinson has focused his own research on the colonial experience
in twentieth century Korea.  His interests include: nationalism  theory,
political ideology, cultural identity, mass media and popular culture, and
more recently issues of representation and political legitimation.  He is
the author of Cultural Nationalism in Colonial Korea, co- author of  Korea
Old and New: a History, and most recently Editor of a forthcoming
revisionist volume entitled Colonial Modernity in Korea.

Course Structure:

Participants will receive a topically and chronologically organized
bibliography on modern and contemporary Korean society and history.  There
will be 13 substantive sessions plus a introductory and summary sessions.
During our reading sessions students will be asked to prepare 8-10 short
critical essays on themes within the week's reading.  These essays are to
focus discussion and begin the process of building a reservoir of topics
for teaching about Korea as a single subject or as a comparative subject
within other courses on East Asia.