Urban Aspirations of Seoul: Religion and Megacities in Comparative Studies - The 1st International Conference

Photo album Urban Aspirations of Seoul

Photo album

Plants: image
Plants: image
Plants: image
Plants: image


Call for Papers [English]  [Korean]

<Urban Aspirations of Seoul: Religion and Megacities in Comparative Studies>
The 1st International Conference/Publication Project on Seoul by MPI MMG
26-27. June 2013 in Seoul, Korea

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (Director Prof. Peter van der Veer, Germany) is organizing an international conference/publication project on Seoul with a focus on religious aspirations. We invite scholars to submit a short abstract (250 words, please specify the session) and a brief biography by December 15, 2012 to seoul(at)mmg.mpg.de. Selected participants will be notified by January 5, 2013, and final papers will be due on May 15, 2013. We welcome papers and presentations in either Korean or English, and will provide simultaneous interpretation between English and Korean at the conference.

Panel 1: Religion in the colonial period and the Cold War
Organizer: Jin-Heon Jung (MPI MMG)

This panel historicizes the transformation of Seoul with the lens of religion. Japanese colonialism and the Cold War national division are crucial contexts in which Seoul encountered drastic changes in all respects. What role has religion played in its intersections with political-economic changes? How has religion contested and negotiated meanings of Seoul’s spatial landscapes? This panel takes a closer look at religious architecture, rituals, and politics in the central area of Seoul during the colonial and national division eras (1910~present).

Panel 2:  Healing in the City
Organizer: Hyun Mee Kim (Anthropology, Yonsei University)

This panel explores a diversity of emerging religious practices in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul. By popularizing the meaning of self-improvement, alternative lifestyle and spirituality, some of these practices have come to offer people of different ages, sexes, and social classes new therapeutic spaces to reach out and connect. The practice of religion in everyday life is often infused with the value of education, the accumulation of material goods, the consumption of food, and the discipline of the body through rigorous training and exercise. This panel invites papers that examine some new, creative and interesting forms of religious practices in Seoul.

Panel 3: Urban Aspirations in Ritual and Representation
Organizer: Nicholas Harkness (Anthropology, Harvard University)

From public prayer meetings to candlelight vigils, from to political protests to the gathering of sports fans, urban spaces in contemporary South Korea are prime spaces for large-scale ritual action. Participants’ accounts of these events sometimes approximate Durkheim’s classic notion of “collective effervescence,” a transcendent feeling of the sacred collectivity where extraordinary things can take place. Beyond participant accounts, however, reports, recordings, and images of these material events become mediatized representations that frame the events and their purported goals. As they circulate, they become points of reference for future events. The central questions of the panel ask: What kinds of urban aspirations do ritualized collective practices in Seoul and other South Korean urban environments invoke, and how do representations of these events circulate and shape future practice?

Panel 4: Spatial Configuration of Migrant Muslim’s Everyday life in Seoul
Organizer: Doyoung Song (Anthropology, Hanyang University)

This panel aims to understand general background and possible methodologies for the study of Muslim migrants’ life in Seoul’s urban cultural configuration. Religious reference offers, for many cases of migrants, the occasion of regroupment and base of economic & identity strategy in their relatively unstable life in migration.  As Islam being a relatively strong factor of regroupment for Muslims who have different regulation of practice in the general environment of Korea, organization of time-space for their everyday life can be particularly difficulty. And this difficulty exists not only for migrant Muslims but also for Korean Muslims. Sometimes organization of time-space minding their religious identity can be even more problematic for Korean Muslims when the pre-supposition of Korean (and Seoul’s) everyday life does not accept enough of ‘cultural diversity’. This panel treats this problematic of everyday life organization to better understand possible 'cultural cityscape' related with religious life of Seoulites.

Panel 5: Urban Asymmetries: Religious Aspirations and Uneven Development
Organizer: Ju Hui Judy HAN (Geography, University of Toronto)

This panel addresses how the dynamics of urban inequality and spatial asymmetries are intertwined with spiritual economies. Examples include spectacularly visible and wealthy megachurches in affluent Gangnam to small storefront churches struggling to survive in low-income areas. This panel considers how religious aspirations and contestations interact with these geographies of immense inequalities and extraordinary asymmetries in Seoul. Particularly welcome are papers that discuss religious projects with concrete geographical and socio-spatial dynamics, and papers that engage with the concepts of aspirations, spatial asymmetry, territories of poverty, and persistence of inequality.

Panel 6
will be organized by Peter van der Veer (MPI MMG) with selected non-Koreanists to provide comparative perspectives.



- This conference is part of MPI’s long term project on Seoul (the Seoul Lab) that is supported by the Academy of Korean Studies Grant funded by the Korean Government. The Seoul Lab will be anchored by three major themes: (1) Urban Geography of Religion; (2) Urban Life, Spiritual Life; and (3) Multiple Aspirations. For more information about the project, please visit www.mmg.mpg.de.

- Transportation, accommodation, and meals in Seoul during the conference period will be provided by Max Planck Institute with the Academy of Korean Studies Grant funded by the Korean government.