Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Needless Trip to Anseong

July 5th, 2011
I woke up early and took a bus to 안성 Anseong to go to interview a professor, Im Janghyeok, at Jung'ang University. Unfortunately it turns out that there are two campuses for Jung'ang University (and Anseong isn't even the main campus). Professor Im is located on the Seoul campus. I could have woken up at 9 and had breakfast and still been on time for the interview. Needless to say I was frustrated, pissed off and felt rather embarrassed. Everyone I know who attends Jung'ang University is on the campus in Anseong, another professor I need to interview is on that campus (he's 이종휘 Yi Jonghui's main professor and I keep talking with Jonghui about going to Anseong to interview him) and I even (in January 2005) once taught a two week intensive class on that campus. Jung'ang University in Seoul is on Line 9, the brand new line that I took for the first time after coming back to the Express Bus Terminal from Anseong. I had never even gone in the neighborhood of Seoul Jung'ang University before. Oh well. As it turned out the professor had time all day, so I was able to meet him, we had lunch (small and bland) and then talked in his office for around an hour.

It was not the best interview. I went to talk to him because 최해리 Choi Haeri recommended that I talk to him—and I really didn't know how talking to him could be helpful, I was just sort of following the road that opened with Haeri's introduction. Professor Im is doing some really interesting scholarship, focusing on sacrifice within shamanic ceremonies, and he explained some stuff about that in a very animated tone, but as with talking to other scholars about my own research, I heard clear lack of understanding in his voice, felt his push towards me studying what he thought I should research and was generally sort of reminded of a bunch of discussions with Korean scholars. My attitude towards them at this point is as follows.

Dear Korean Scholars who already have a secure teaching position and are probably at least a little older than me: You know what you know and I know what I know. Your knowledge of history and tidbits from what has happened over the evolution of cultural policy in Korea (and why it has happened) is impressive, but my research is not historical. Your knowledge of performing arts accumulated through research, reading, conferences and so on is great and I know it~ but your research output is solidly descriptive, your citations rarely extend beyond Korea, you do not bring Korean performing arts or the situation for them into discussion with others working on performing arts issues around the world. Also your on the ground understanding of what is happening within Korean performing arts groups/preservation associations/schools is based on hearsay, limited exposure and you can't even perform these arts, hence your pronouncements feel elitist not objective, arrogant not inclusive. Although I understand why you (and I) cannot publish everything we think about certain groups or individuals for fear of burning a bridge with a group of performers that might lead to other bridges being closed to us in the future—your timidity to actually take a stance and write anything that is at all critical despite your un-attributable tough-talk one on one with me is not impressive. Finally, I would really like to see that you actually care about these issues. I research in this field because I care. Where is your passion and attachment to the arts? Show it if you've got it!

In the evening I finally had another 상모 sangmo class with Yi Jonghui. It was great. I now have a sangmo routine that is about 1 minute long when performed. I worked on ironing it out and getting the transitions down until at least 20 minutes after Jonghui had left before I headed home. I really need to find time to practice. 

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