Acquiring and Possessing Korean Things: Material Culture and National Identity in Japan

Acquiring and Possessing Korean Things: Material Culture and National Identity in Japan

By Morgan Pitelka, Associate Professor of Asian Studies at Occidental College/Korea Colloquium Series

Tuesday, March 04, 2008
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

243 Royce Hall, UCLA
Los Angeles, 90095

In this talk Morgan Pitelka will explore how the survival of old things (especially objects from the 16th century) informs modern national identity in Japan. In particular, he will examine the genealogy of "acquiring and possessing Korean things" as an elite cultural practice in late medieval and early modern Japan. Buddhist monks, merchant tea practitioners, and feudal lords actively sought ceramics and other forms of material culture from Korea, and cherished and labeled these pieces as products of Korai (Koryo). He will survey some of these objects, and then theorize the legacy of their existence in Japan.

Examination of Korean art in Japanese collections has tended to focus on style and aesthetics with little attention to the biographies or socio-political influence of such objects. Perhaps we assume that in the relationaship between art and society, pictures and things are mere contrivances or tools. However, some anthropoligists have challenged us to revise this view, arguing that artistic products have a non-linguistic agency through which they influence people. How, we need to ask, do material things shape (literally and figuratively) the world we live in? What role have old things played in the making (and unmaking) of modern identity in Northeast Asia?

Morgan Pitelka received his Ph.D in East Asian Studies from Princeton University in 2001, and is now Associate Professor of Asian Studies at Occidental College in Los Angeles. His publications include the edited volumes Japanese Tea Culture: Art, History, and Practice (2003) and What's the Use of Art? Asian Material and Visual Culture in Context (2007, with Jan Mrazek) and the book Handmade Culture: Raku Potters, Patrons, and Tea Practitioners in Japan (2005). Another edited anthology,Samurai Histories: Social and Cultural Practices of Warriors in Medieval and Early Modern Japan is forthcoming. He is currently writing a biography of Tokugawa leyasu and his material legacy, funded by a grant from the NEH.

Special Instructions
Open to the Public

Cost : Free

Tel: 310-825-3284

Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies