Anthropology Talk: Imagining a Field Site: An American Anthropologist’s Reflections on Fieldwork in 1970s Korea with a Meditation on the Intellectual and Social Positioning of the Fieldworker

 “Imagining a Field Site: An American Anthropologist’s Reflections on Fieldwork in 1970s Korea with a Meditation on the Intellectual and Social Positioning of the Fieldworker”

 

March 25th, Thursday, at 4:00 – 5:30pm, ANSO Conference room (Rm 2107), 6303 Marine Dr

 

Clark W. Sorensen is Associate Professor of International Studies at the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.

 

ABSTRACT:  In the 1970s it was not unusual for anthropologists to do fieldwork in countries they had never visited. This paper explores one person’s process of imagining fieldwork in South Korea, a US client state, in the context of the Cold War. I argue that the result was not Cold War anthropology, per se. The paper explores how the orientations of anthropological theory of the time and the expectations of informants conditioned by the experience of the Korean War and its aftermath molded the kind of field work attempted and thus the ethnographic picture that resulted. Familiarity with Korean anthropologists’ post-colonial desire to salvage lost cultural authenticity also leavened the project. This paper is intended to provide a reflexive example of how sociopolitical constructs and historical context condition even the most carefully theorized and researched anthropological projects, and to argue for the value of rethinking old field notes. The talk also aims to open up a dialogue more generally about the nature of doing anthropological fieldwork and the intellectual and social place of the fieldworker.

 

BIO: Clark W. Sorensen is Associate Professor of International Studies at the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington. He is Chair of the Korea Studies Program, and Director of the Center for Korean Studies. He has adjunct appointments in Anthropology and Women’s Studies, and is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Korean Studies. He received his BA in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley, his MA in Korean Studies and his PhD in Anthropology, both from the University of Washington. He is author of Over the Mountains are Mountains: Korean Peasant Households and their Adaptations to Rapid Industrialization, and has published articles in Journal of Anthropological Research, Anthropos, Comparative Education Review, and other journals. He is editor of the monograph series Korean Studies at the Jackson School of International Studies and of The Center for Korean Studies Publication Series.