Writing about K-pop: Choose Your Disciplinary Adventure

In my previous article, I talked about how taking a historian’s approach to K-pop considers the past in making sense of the present. In this article, I’ll discuss how this informs my approach to K-pop in my book Soul in Seoul: African American Popular Music and K-pop. In making sense of K-pop, I choose several disciplinary approaches to increase our understanding of K-pop music. The first thing scholars do when writing about a subject is to think about how the study will contribute to what we a

Writing About K-pop: History and Context

One of the first things I wanted to do with my book, Soul in Seoul: African American Popular Music and K-pop, is to recognize K-pop’s history and development. Placing K-pop within a historical context is crucial to the way we ultimately understand it. K-pop is often seen in present-day terms. It is described and treated as a short-term trend. Much of what many people know about K-pop comes through the media. Journalists tend to focus on the current developments and their coverage of K-pop is no

What K-pop Can Teach Us About Engagement for Online Courses

One of the most common concerns about moving courses online is that engagement is lost. However, it could be useful to draw on the kind of engagement that is central to contemporary Korean popular music (K-pop) culture. Most articles you may read about the need to teach online courses (as opposed to the emergency remote teaching that most instructors engaged in in the spring) contains the often unchallenged assertion that online courses cannot replicate the engagement of the face-to-face course

Not Just Pretty Faces: K-pop Idols and Quiet Storm Masculinity

2PM, a six-member male group from JYP Entertainment, may be the model for K-pop’s beast-like masculinity, which primarily depends on appearance, but they also participate in the black male soul tradition, which uses vocal ability to inform a different kind of masculinity. Scholars often focus on the appearance of K-pop idols, who are Korean entertainers who engage in extra-musical activities such as acting, hosting and endorsements in addition to musical performance. One mode of appearance refl

Not Just Pretty Faces: K-pop Idols and Quiet Storm Masculinity

2PM, a six-member male group from JYP Entertainment, may be the model for K-pop’s beast-like masculinity, which primarily depends on appearance, but they also participate in the black male soul tradition, which uses vocal ability to inform a different kind of masculinity. Scholars often focus on the appearance of K-pop idols, who are Korean entertainers who engage in extra-musical activities such as acting, hosting and endorsements in addition to musical performance. One mode of appearance refl

Digital Humanities for the Rest of Us

I recently gave a presentation at the Council on Undergraduate Research 2016 Biennial Conference on undergraduate research and digital humanities. The session was well-attended. Some the individuals who attended were not only interested in undergraduate research as a co-curricular activity, but also the unicorn that is digital humanities. I know many scholars in the humanities do not feel that they can participate in digital humanities. However, I think there is at least one thing that all human

Fault Lines in Transcultural Fandom

A recent clash of opinions over the status of Kangin, a member of the Korean pop group Super Junior, exposes fault lines that can occur with transcultural fandoms. SM Entertainment issued a statement about Kangin’s recent DUI accident.  Not satisfied with the common period of self-reflection that typically follows a scandal,  a group of Korean fans created a petition to have Kangin leave the group entirely. Citing Kangin’s previous drunk driving incident and other controversies, the fans argue

Girl Culture, Individuals and Neoliberalism

As part of my research for my book project, Crazy/Sexy/Cool: Transnational Femininities in K-pop, I’ve been reading up on girl industries and girl cultures. Such scholarship invariably places these in a neoliberalist context, and this has a bearing on female K-pop groups. On one hand, K-pop girl groups are created by Korean agencies to appeal to global mass audiences, who are mostly female. At the same time, individual fans find such groups appealing, sometimes in ways that challenge the intention of the Korean agencies. Marnina Gonick and Yeran Kim take two different approaches that bear on my work on K-pop girl groups.

Authenticity, Crossover and Rhythm and Blues

Authenticity is a major theme in scholarship on rhythm and blues (R&B), which poses some interesting challenges for my work on how R&B travels transnationally. Some writers define authenticity in R&B solely in terms of the experiences of African Americans, deeming crossover beyond the black community as pandering to the mainstream (read white people). Others take the hybridity of black music as their starting point and suggest alternative ways of reading the appeal of R&B beyond American blacks. The centrality of music aesthetics as well as audience agency proves most useful for my work.

Shine On: Glamour, Image and K-pop

Visuals are an important part of K-pop, and understanding them is crucial to understanding the meaning of K-pop and its spread globally. In addition to music videos, images that accompany promotions for music releases, photo shoots featured in magazines and endorsements for an array of products are seen, collected and exchanged by fans. Not just important fan activity, such archiving in the lay sense is important to the preservation and memory-keeping of the visual narrative of K-pop.

Am I Doing This Right?: Excavation Of Korean Popular Music As Digital Humanities Project

I just finished my first digital essay, Seo Taiji: President of Culture, for my digital humanities project on the cultural history of Hallyu-era Korean popular music, 1992-2009. But as I continue to build this Omeka site and design the project, I wonder: Is my project a digital humanities project? What am I doing? And am I doing it right? Such questions reflect recurrent anxiety about doing digital humanities with a popular culture project and how it might be perceived in the digital humanities and Korean popular culture studies realms.

Korean Popular Culture In Digital Humanities

This past spring, I attended my first THATCamp at the University of Virginia. I was nervous. Although I’ve been a humanities person practically all my life, I was unsure if the collaborative projects I manage on Hallyu (Korean wave) popular culture on the Internet qualified as a digital humanities enterprise. After attending THATCampVA, I realized that my projects embraced several central elements of digital humanities.
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