Panel Discussions & Other Stuff

Here’s our schedule for the rest of semester:


12 May: “Lecture” — Mad Men (one episode & discussion)

17 May, hour 1: Lecture — Women, Gender Relations, and Mad Men:

17 May, hour 2: Panel Discussion:


Often, non-Westerners engage in (either positive or negative) essentializing descriptions of the status of women in the West, as opposed to the status of women in their own society. But to speak of the status of women in the English-speaking world in this way is to ignore the fact that, in reality, women in the English-speaking world were historically as subject to sexism and subjugation as they are in the most sexist societies today.

What such “otherings” ignore is the degree of public effort and intellectual work through which women in the English-speaking world claimed this social power for themselves. This process of demanding empowerment and equality is known as “feminism.” The development and rise of feminism over the last few hundred years, and especially during the latter half of the 20th century, has radically transformed the way women live, but also the power structure of the Western world, as well as those societies into which feminism has successfully been imported.

Yet the translation of feminism to other cultures has enjoyed different degrees of success in different societies. Students in this panel will discuss the question of how feminism, as a phenomenon in the English-speaking world, does or does not translate well to Korean culture, as well as exploring the question of whether, as C. Douglas Lummis said of democracy, the importing of foreign cultural ideals (like democracy or gender equality) can allow societies to become “more completely themselves” — in other words, whether the promotion of gender equality and feminism in Korea necessarily threatens the traditional social order, or could be seen as allowing the best of Korean cultural tradition to be rediscovered and resurrected more profoundly to life.

19 May: Class Discussion of readings:

  • excerpt from Teen 2.0 by Robert Epstein, and
  • excerpt from Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto

24 May, hour 1: Discussion of readings, continued.

24 May, hour 2: Panel Discussion:

Childhood & Education
As mentioned in our class discussion on 19 May, while human beings obviously do pass through a period of physical and psychological development that we can clearly label “childhood” or “youth”, many of the things we assume the words Childhood or Adolescence to mean are, in fact, culturally constructed. The lines we draw between childhood and adulthood, the way we differentiate them, and the recently invented concept of “adolescence” are not unproblematic.

What are some of the problems with how we think about childhood, either in the English-spoeaking world or in Korean society, and how can we address these problems? Are there models of childhood in other societies (besides these two) which we could look towards for ideas on how to improve the lives of young people in Korea and in the English-speaking world?

26 May: Discussion of reading:

  • TBA

31 May hour 1 — continued discussion of reading

31 May hour 2 Panel Discussion:

Working for a Living
Koreans work more than anyone else in the OECD, including, obviously, most of the English-speaking world. However, this “cultural difference” is, like most of the others we have discussed in the past, far from eternal or essential. In this discussion, students will address the ways in which the current status of work in Korean life is much more similar to the status of work in the lives of Anglophones in past times. This comparison will serve to help facilitate a discussion of whether the social significance of work, in the process of modernization, necesarily goes through the kinds of transformations seen in the Anglophone world, as well as where students think Korea is headed in terms of the social understanding of Work.

(Issues of gender, race, and power can also come into the discussion, but the main focus will be on disputing the uniqueness of the circumstances, and the justifications for, the status of work in the lives of contemporary Koreans.)

2 June: Discussion of readings:

  • TBA

7 June hour 1 — Panel Discussion:

Language and Society
As discussed on 2 June, the significance of language — and the politics of language — came into question very widely in the English-speaking world during the 1980s. Language politics, as related to gender, racial, and “identity” politics, came under strong consideration, for example with feminists questioning the sexism that was inherent in English grammar. (Such as using “he” for plural when discussing mixed-gender groups of people.

Questions regarding the relationship between language and social structure, language and social problems, and how coonsciously changing language can change (or improve) society will be the focus of this discussion. While it is fine for students to discuss the Korean case, they are also expected to discuss examples from the English-speaking world as well.

7 June hour 2 — Lecture/Discussion of readings:

  • TBA

9 June — Panel Discussion:

Play, Leisure, and Identity
The 19th and 20th centuries, but especially the 20th, were times in which the idea of popular entertainment — though it was not new at the time — exploded into prominence and unparalleled importance in the English-speaking world. The status of, and understanding of the place of, “play” became suddenly important and a powerful part of how people in the English-speaking world engaged with their society, with the world, and with the formulation of their own identities.

This panel discussion will address how sports, film, and television came to occupy this position of significance, whether play necessarily occupies such a role in modernity, and whether the overt role of entertainment in Korea’s Chun Dictatorship is really so different from the role entertainment plays in the Anglophone world today.

14 June hour 1 — Discussion of readings:

  • excerpt from Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia by Francis Wheen,
  • the article “The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick” by Frank Rose (in Wired 11.12, December 2003, along with the other content on the page linked),  and
  • [a short story] by Philip K. Dick, plus
  • the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

14 June hour 2 — Panel Discussion

Power & Resistance
Students will discuss the ways in which people in the English-speaking world specifically understand their relationship to power, be it corporate, governmental, or other authorities. The discussion may range from forms of protest, grassroots social movements, but also the especially American hobby of conspiracy theorism. Why do conspiracy theories appeal to modern Anglophone societies? With the work of Philip K. Dick having become so mainstream that it has helped to define modern Hollywood cinema, has paranoia and the struggle over power become mere entertainment?

I’ll update the panel discussions with the names of the participants soon.

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