Narrative Interpretation in Folklore Studies: Japanese Emigrants to Geomun-do (Port Hamilton), Korea, and Their Psychic World


When researchers encounter storytelling by informants during fieldwork, this serves as important research materials in folklore studies. Storytellers are by no means informants who simply provide indigenous information useful to researchers coming from outside. Rather, they are themselves mobile subjects, accumulating lived experiences while moving temporally and spatially across communities and relocating residences over time. This paper addresses the knotty questions that emerge in using storytelling and vernacular narrative as materials in folklore studies: that is, how to interpret stories without reducing them into pieces of objective information that are valuable only to researchers; and how to recover the internal psychic world and subjective thoughts from an oral or vernacular tradition.
In this paper, I choose as a case study Port Hamilton, or Geomun-do, a small group of islands in the Jeju Strait off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula, where Japanese fishers began to emigrate in the end of the Edo (Tokugawa) period and formed Japanese settlements, which remained in place until the end of World War II. I will examine the storytelling and narratives by women who were born and lived in Geomun-do until they were repatriated to Japan after the war. I consider the ways in which women’s stories afford an insight into their psychic world that was formed as Japan underwent rapid changes in the prewar, wartime, and postwar periods.

Author Information
Aki Tokumaru, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2020
Stream: Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the ACCS2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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