CFP: Transgression as a Secular Value, University of Michigan

Perspectives on Contemporary Korea Conference Series 2

Call for Papers
Transgression as a Secular Value: Korea in Transition?
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Oct. 26, 2012
Sponsored by the Nam Center for Korean Studies, University of Michigan

Crossing over limits, infringing the law, and ignoring convention are often cited as examples of transgression. In traditional Korea where religion played a vital role in demarcating social and personal boundaries transgressive acts (e.g. engaging in illicit sexual behavior, challenging gender norms, defying social hierarchies, defacing icons and symbols, using excessive violence etc.) often served as a critical means for testing these boundaries of social acceptability, identity, power, and truth. But what happens to these transgressive acts after the “demystification” and “secularization” of society? Do they become obsolete? If they still test boundaries, then whose boundaries do these transgressive acts test?

Taking cue from the proliferation of successful Korean films that take transgression as their central theme, the international conference, “Transgression as a secular value: Korea in transition?,” hopes to bring together scholars from both the social sciences and humanities to address these and other similar questions about the significance of transgression in modern and pre-modern Korea. The chief objective of this conference is to investigate the possibility of reading the surging interest in transgression, which has arguably attained an air of sacredness in mainstream culture, as an instance of a search for a “secular” value. The conference will therefore encourage its participants to ask, when and how did transgression become so desirable and consumer friendly (and not just possible) in Korea? And, should we associate this attitude towards transgression with “the secular”?

The conference will explore the notion of transgression as a “secular” value from a comparative perspective—both temporal and spatial—to underscore and contribute to the growing debate on the heterogeneous nature of secularity as a way of life. The organizers of the conference therefore welcome papers that critically examine transgression in either modern or pre-modern Korea and also papers that discuss transgression in a broader Asian or global context.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to conference organizers at transgression AT by June 4, 2012. Please include name, institutional affiliation, and contact information.

Selected participants will be asked to submit completed papers by September 28, 2012.

The Nam Center for Korean Studies will award travel grants to accepted participants to defray costs of attendance. Lodging and onsite meals will be provided by the conference. Conference organizers plan to have selected papers published in an edited volume.

Organizers: Juhn Ahn (Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan, jahn AT and Nojin Kwak (Nam Center/Department of Communication Studies, University of Michigan, kwak AT