John B. Duncan has been named director of the UCLA Center for Korean Studies, a center at International Studies and Overseas Programs (ISOP), effective July 1.
John B. Duncan has been named director of the UCLA Center for Korean Studies, a center at International Studies and Overseas Programs (ISOP), effective July 1. Duncan, an associate professor in the Department of East Asian Language and Cultures, replaced Robert Buswell, who stepped down to direct the Center for Buddhist Studies, jointly established last year by ISOP and the Division of Humanities.
Geoffrey Garrett, the new vice provost for ISOP, welcomed Duncan in his new position as center director. “I am very pleased that John Duncan has agreed to step into this important position. I look forward to working with John to build on the wonderful existing programs in Korean Studies at UCLA.
“This is also an opportune time for me to thank Robert Buswell for the incredible service he has given to ISOP in recent years in so many capacities. We are fortunate to have Robert still with us as founding director of the Center for Buddhist Studies, and I wish him all the best in this new and exciting endeavor.”
Buswell directed the Center for Korean Studies for more than seven years and most recently served as interim vice provost of ISOP.
Duncan, an historian whose research focuses on the social and cultural history of pre-modern Korea, has taught in the Department of East Asian Language and Cultures since 1989.
Duncan is currently researching local society and popular culture in the late Choson period that took place during the 17th–19th centuries. Of special interest to him is the interaction that transpired between the state and the peasants, particularly in areas such as population registration, taxation, enforced labor, military service and ritual, and how such interaction affected the peasants’ sense of identity. The topic also raises larger questions as to whether scholars can identify a Korean “nation” prior to the introduction of modern Western concepts of nation and nationalism at the end of the 19th century.
Duncan’s latest publication is “The Origins of the Choson Dynasty” (University of Washington Press, 2000). His “The Uses of Confucianism in Modern Korea” and “Examinations and Orthodoxy in Choson Dynasty Korea,” will appear in “Rethinking Confucianism: Past and Present in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam,” forthcoming from the ISOP’s Asia and Pacific Monograph Series.
His articles in both English and Korean have been published in such publications as “The Cambridge History of Korea,” the Journal of Korean Studies, Acto Koreana and Korean Studies.
He has also translated numerous articles and papers focusing on topics from prehistoric culture and society to contemporary politics.
“I hope to continue the work of my predecessor, Robert Buswell, in maintaining UCLA as the premier institution for the study of Korea in the West,” Duncan said. “At the same time, I also hope to build strong cooperative relations with my colleagues in the centers for Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian studies in order to integrate Korea more effectively into research and teaching about Asia and to promote a more comprehensive vision of the region as a whole.”
Duncan said he also envisions initiatives that will help bridge the gap between Korean and Western scholars working on Korea.
The UCLA Center for Korean Studies has the largest permanent faculty specializing in Korean Studies of any university on the American mainland; the most students of Korean heritage of any U.S. university (10 percent of the UCLA student body); and the most Ph.D. specializations of any Korean Studies program in the United States. More than 2,000 students each year take classes on Korea at UCLA, ranging from traditional and modern history, literature and religion, to contemporary sociology, anthropology, linguistics and social welfare.