Embodying Democracies: The Gwangju Uprising and the Politics of Mourning in South Korea, 1980-2020.


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project examines a history of advancing democracy in South Korea from the period of Korea’s last military dictatorship, from 1980-1987, to its post-dictatorship years, from 1987-2020. It asks how performance advances democracy and illustrates the role of embodied endeavors in facilitating democracy by analyzing various cultural performances, including protests, memorial rites, public hearings, and theatre productions, that represent and commemorate the Gwangju Uprising, a pro-democracy revolt. Its central argument which arises from extensive oral history interviews and archival research in Korea, is that performance contributes to democracy by creating an alternative, cultural space where deaths disavowed and erased from state records, and concealed from the public eye, arise into communal memories.