Interdisciplinary Approaches to Early Korea

Conference/Symposium | April 27 | 10 a.m.-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Stella Xu, Roanoke College

 Martin Bale, Yeungnam University; Jonathan Best, Wesleyan University; Marjorie Burge, UC Berkeley; Mark Byington, Harvard University; Jack Davey, UC Berkeley; Lauren Glover, University of Wisconsin; Dennis Lee, Yonsei University; Gyoung-Ah Lee, University of Oregon; Rachel Lee, University of Washington; Rory Walsh, University of Oregon

 Center for Korean Studies (CKS)

Early Korea is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand human society on the Korean peninsula in ancient times, make the case for the relevance of the region to world history and archaeology, and critically appraise how ancient history is used in the present to foster notions of Korean identity. It has great potential as a case study for approaching broader topics in archaeology and history like state formation, cultural contact, technological development, social and political stratification, and urbanization. It draws together a number of traditional disciplines such as history, archaeology, art history, and linguistics and demands engagement with diverse methodologies and evidence.

There are two factors that have been limiting the field so far. First, interpretation is constrained by adherence to a small number of problematic textual sources, and engagement with non-historical, non-archaeological methodologies has been limited. Second, the archaeological environment in South Korea encourages extreme regional specialization, and expertise and integrative studies that look more broadly are not prevalent. Compounding this, contemporary geo-nationalism and lack of critical appraisal of the concept of ‘Korea’ as a subjective analytical category has prevented peninsular data from being placed effectively into its East Asian and world archaeology context.

This conference addresses these problems by showcasing interesting, innovative approaches to society on the Korean peninsula in ancient times that transcend and break down these limiting categories and mindsets. Younger scholars working on peninsular material from a historical, archaeological, anthropological, linguistic, paleo-environmental, or other framework will have an opportunity to present their work and receive feedback from peers and senior scholars. The conference is also designed to bring scholars not working on Korean material into the discussion as well as draw attention to recent political developments in Korea that have had a significant impact on the academic freedom and future sustainability of the field of Early Korea.



10:15-12:00 SESSION I

Rewriting Three Kingdoms History with Material Culture

"Identification and Chronology of Some Koguryŏ Royal Tombs"
Mark Byington, Harvard University

"Paekche King Kŭnch’ogo’s Twisted Journey to the South: A Textual and Archaeological Perspective"
Dennis Lee, Yonsei University

"Wooden Inscriptions and the Culture of Writing in Sabi Paekche"
Marjorie Burge, UC Berkeley

Discussant: Jonathan Best, Wesleyan University

12:00-1:00 LUNCH BREAK

1:00-2:45 SESSION II

Identity in Liminal Spaces

"Gendered Spaces and Mumun Period Households: A Case Study from the Jinju Area"
Rachel Lee, University of Washington

"Becoming Middle Mumun: Identity and the Spread of Songguk-ri Culture in the Southern Korean Peninsula"
Martin Bale, Yeungnam University

"Ritual Boundaries in Iron Age Southern Korea"
Jack Davey, UC Berkeley

Discussant: Gyoung-Ah Lee, University of Oregon

2:45-3:00 COFFEE BREAK

3:00-4:45 SESSION III

Social Ramifications of Production and Exchange

"Ceramics and society in Mahan and Paekche"
Rory Walsh, University of Oregon

"Overlooked Imports: Carnelian in the Korean Peninsula"
Lauren Glover, University of Wisconsin

Discussant: Martin Bale, Yeungnam University

4:45-5:00 COFFEE BREAK


“In the Shadow of History: Reconstructing Ancient Korean History and the Formation of Korean-ness”

Stella Xu, Roanoke College

This talk, based on Xu's recent book Reconstructing Ancient Korean History: The Formation of Korean-ness in the Shadow of History (Lexington Books, 2016), examines historiography on ancient Korean history and its relation to the construction of national identity in Korea through a critical and comparative analysis of Chinese and Korean primary sources. It also analyzes salient and contested issues in ancient history, particularly the ways in which historical narrative has correlated with Korean politics and culture, adding to our understanding of why ancient history has become the subject of history wars in East Asia. People live with the legacies of the past, which makes history and memory crucial in the political, cultural, and social aspects of human society. China, Japan, and Korea have shared a long history of cultural interactions. It should be noted that neither similarities nor continuities among East Asian civilizations, nor distinctions and discontinuities, can be disregarded in reaching a balanced, comprehensive understanding of history and culture in East Asia.

Stella Xu is an associate professor of history at Roanoke College in Virginia, where she teaches East Asian history. She received her Ph.D at the University of California at Los Angles. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in Korean Studies, Journal of Korean Studies, Pacific Affairs, ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, and Women and Social Movement in the United States, 1600-2000., 510-643-9787