Curating Koreana

E. Taylor Atkins

in Primitive Selves

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780520266735
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520947689 | DOI:
Curating Koreana

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This chapter discusses the conflicted nature of colonial cultural policy. The Government-General of Chōsen (1910–45) assumed as one of its prerogatives the creation of an institutional infrastructure for the excavation of sites of archaeological importance, the compilation and publication of historical documents, the preservation and display of objets d'art, and the investigation of folkways. The curation of Koreana dramatized the defunct Chosŏn regime's incompetence with regard to Korean material heritage, and sought to prove long-standing Japanese claims to the peninsula. But curatorial efforts were also motivated by less diabolical interests, with some investigators advocating for the independent value of Korea's material and cultural heritage and developing affective attachments to it. The ever-present concern for maintaining order in a recalcitrant colony, however, compromised the Government-General's curatorial ambitions, since the persistence of vernacular resistance in village festivals, folk songs, religious rites, and folk theater incited the regime either to crack down on the festivities, or to redirect popular energies and creativity toward goals that better suited imperial interests.

Keywords: colonial cultural policy; Government-General of Chōsen; curation; material heritage

Chapter.  17658 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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