UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Looping effects between images and realities : understanding the plurality of Korean shamanism Kim, Dong Kyu


This thesis aims to show the wide spectrum of Korean shamanism, not only by exploring a body of images of Korean shamanism that has been established on the level of academic discourse, but also by illustrating the practices of modern shamans and clients. I mean by the words “a wide spectrum of Korean shamanism” that there are multiple images and realities subsumed under the title of Korean shamanism. Not only negatively associated concepts, such as “superstition,” “magic,” “primitive” and so on, but also positive images coexist on the contemporary spectrum of Korean shamanism. Those images do not remain limited to academia, but also shape the reality of Korean shamanism, having been appropriated by governmental policies as well as by shamans themselves. I call it “looping effects between images and realities” in Korean shamanism. In order to show the looping effect in Korean shamanism, I first analyze the historical development of the shamanism-image which has been configured within official discourses in specific intellectual and social contexts. Various identifications and classifications of Korean shamanism are placed along the spectrum of Korean shamanism anchored by two extreme images, “the negative image” and “the positive one.” I will then show how those images of Korean shamanism affect Korean shamans’ identity-making process and even the reconfiguration of Korean shamanism itself. Here, academic discourses are perceived as one constituent of contemporary Korean shamanism. As another factor in the formation of the plural realities of Korean shamanism, I suggest the dynamic relationship between shaman and client. For over one hundred years, Koreans have experienced radical changes in the realms of spirituality and materiality. In accordance with these changes, many fundamental values, such as modern scientific rationalism and the religious worldview, have competed with each other. In this circumstance, Korean shamans try to enforce a shamanic worldview through ritual activities, and their ritual activities are reorganized according to their contemporary clients’ various desires which reflect specific situations. In conclusion, in this dissertation, I contend that all these feedback processes, between images and realities and between shaman and client, have constructed the plurality of Korean shamanism.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International