Human Traffic: Shamanism and the Marginalization of Trash Hunters in the Korean Cultural Community


In Seoul one will invariably find elderly people pulling large carts loaded with cardboard, glass and other recyclable materials. These cultural and economic exiles are largely ignored both by the populace and the academic community. The absence of these trash hunters[collectors] in the intellectual consciousness of Korea is very conspicuous against the wide theoretical interest in other socio-politically marginalized figures, especially given the strong interest in post-colonial theory in the country. Our side-project on Korean shamanism offered some points of contrast that help identify the current 'trend' of Korea's intellectual/academic scene, in which the rich matrix of gender, political, and religious issues that the phenomenon of shamanism offers has rendered it into a more than appealing subject to Korea's cultural theorists. The immobility and invisibility of the Korean shamans'�especially in contrast to the trash hunters who are ever-present and ever-moving in Korea's urban scenes' all suggest the fact that marginalization alone cannot account for shamanism's appeal to cultural theory. Can the absence of academic interest in the trash hunters be attributed to the fact that for them as subjects there are absolutely no boundaries to be transgressed? The trash hunters are urban presences that testify to cultural theory's lacuna, wherein subjects with no political nexus to offer have no place in its citadel of the 'marginalized'

Author Information
Dustin Hellberg, Yonsei University, South Korea
Yun Ha Kim, Yonsei University, South Korea

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2016
Stream: Social Criticism

This paper is part of the ACCS2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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