From the Guest Editor

From the Guest Editor

This special issue of Folklore Forum is dedicated to Professor Roger L. Janelli, whose thirty-two years of distinguished scholarship and dedicated mentorship at Indiana University have deeply touched many students and scholars, green and ripened alike. When Curtis Ashton, then Editor-in-Chief of this journal, invited me in Fall 2006 to serve as guest editor for a Festschrift in Janelli’s honor, I gladly welcomed the invitation and was thankful to the current staff members for initiating the project. I approached this task as both a modest expression of my gratitude to Janelli and as an opportunity to draw the attention of fellow folklorists, ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, and other scholars to some of the latest interdisciplinary explorations of East Asia. Deciding which of the submissions should be published was a difficult process. Regretfully, we could not include all the work offered as a tribute to Dr. Janelli, although they reflected well the breadth and depth of his scholarship.

As a member of the first generation of Korean folklore and anthropology scholars in the United States, Roger Janelli has played a crucial role in developing Korean Studies. His first book, Ancestor Worship and Korean Society (1982), had a profound impact on studies of lineage and folk religion. Co-authored with his wife, Dawnhee Yim—herself a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul—the book especially influenced explorations of ancestral beliefs and practices in Korea. The novelty of this highly regarded work cannot be emphasized enough, considering that it was published at a time when Korea was a largely unexplored region in ethnography. The fact that Ancestor Worship and Korean Society was later translated into both Korean and Japanese testifies to the broad influence of the Janellis’ scholarship.

Keeping pace with the rapid social change occurring in South Korea, Janelli shifted his research focus in his next book. Making Capitalism: The Social and Cultural Construction of a South Korean Conglomerate (1993) investigates not a rural village, but an urban corporation in Seoul. This nuanced ethnography, again written with Professor Yim, depicts the complexity of South Korean capitalism and corporate culture, a topic that had been explored by few scholars. Subsequent collaborative work with varied individuals facilitated dialogue among international researchers and resulted in scholarship published in both Korean and English. Among other titles, Janelli co-edited The Anthropology of Korea: East Asian Perspectives (1998) with Japanese Anthropologist Shima Mutsuhiko. This anthology of contributions from Korean, Japanese, and American anthropologists provided an overview of current scholarship in the Anthropology of Korea. A prolific writer throughout his career, Roger Janelli has also published articles dealing with a wide range of topics, including religion, identity politics, political economy, Korean culture and social organization, and responses to globalization in Korea.

Many have praised Janelli not only as a dedicated scholar, but also as a gracious yet critical mentor. He is an authority from whom experts in Korean Studies seek assistance. Nancy Abelmann, an anthropologist of the Koreas, recently said to me, “I always ask for Roger to review my manuscripts—because if Roger goes through them I know he’ll catch all the big mistakes. Moreover, she added, “I know of no scholar with greater personal and intellectual integrity!” His pupils also extol his virtues. He was a teacher with whom students could consult on almost any topic, from the most current trends in scholarship, to the oldest foundational concepts in the canons of several disciplines, to practical tactics for surviving graduate life. A colleague of mine who was also one of Janelli’s students told me: “I want to be a scholar like him. He knows everything.” Indeed, I benefited enormously from his broad and up-to-date knowledge of academic trends. He was always eager to help his students and extraordinarily generous with his time. His jet-like e-mail replies to students’ queries, sent from wherever he happened to be on the planet, are legendary among his students.

Furthermore, Roger Janelli has enriched instruction with compassion, treating his students with the utmost respect without sacrificing his critical stance. On one occasion he brought a card to a graduate seminar and invited participants to write a few words of encouragement to a student who could not attend class due to illness. This was just one of many occasions in which I was moved by his kindness. Janelli has nurtured his students with great patience, offering them guidance in the pursuit of their passion for a subject, but never with the intent to control. Though my praise may seem lavish, I am confident that the many individuals who know Roger Janelli will not feel that my reflections are inflated. Further, the essays submitted for this collection attest to his influence as both a teacher and a scholar.

The essays that follow relate to or reflect upon Janelli’s cross-disciplinary contributions, yet they are all based on each author’s own original research. Adam Bronson’s article examines the creation of Japanese Folklore Studies as a discipline; it centers on the prominent folklorist Yanagita Kunio. Bronson argues that Yanagita’s political and theoretical stance toward anthropology and history, two fields intimately related to folklore, underpinned disciplinary boundaries and the academically marginal position of Folklore Studies in post-war Japan. This piece is relevant to many folklorists regardless of their areas of study, as it contributes to dialogue about the current position of folklore in academe in the Americas and elsewhere. Patricia Hardwick’s piece is also historic in its scope. While tracing the complex history of the birth and subsequent (re)construction of Paranakan identity in Singapore, Hardwick unsettles the static notion of ethnic identity in ever-changing socio-political milieus.

The next two pieces focus on personal accounts of two female musicians, one performing “traditional” music in Korea and the other indie music in Taiwan. Taking as a case study the experience of Yi Ji-young, a musician trained in kayagŭm (a twelve-string Korean instrument), Hilary Finchum-Sung delineates the contingencies and intricacies of the weighty notion of tradition in the South Korean musical world. While Yi’s success in promoting Korean traditional music at home and abroad lies in her innovative experimentation with different genres and styles, including traditional and modern and Korean and Western, the musician constantly struggles to define her role as an “innovative traditionalist” in a climate where claims of tradition can be imposing. Mack Hagood’s research is grounded in Taipei but is of much broader scope. By employing the anthropological concept of “liminality,” he portrays the politics of unstable identity in the Taiwanese indie scene at the intersection of the local, national, and global.

This issue also includes a reprint of Sue-Je Lee Gage’s pre-retirement interview with Roger Janelli. First published in Anthropology News Fall 2007, the interview gives the opportunity to hear Janelli’s own account of the past and the future of the anthropology of Korea. It is fitting that the last words of this issue should be his. How better to acknowledge and appreciate Roger Janelli’s contributions to the academic world than to offer readers access to his recent reflections?

Kyoim Yun
Guest Editor, Folklore of East Asia

Kyoim Yun is Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. Having recently earned a Ph.D. in Folklore at Indiana University, she has published articles on the commodification of shamanism during the 2002 World Cup (in English) and Performance Studies in the USA (in Korean). Yun serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Shamanic Practice: Exploring Traditional and Contemporary Shamanism.


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