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SOAS seminar: Shamans and Confucian Public Officials

The first SOAS seminar of the month:

Shamans and Confucian Public Officials: Religion and Social Recognition in Korea

Dr Antonio J. Domenech (Universidad de Málaga)
Friday 1 March 2019, 5:15pm
Room B104, Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London
This seminar is free, but registration is required. Register here

Antonio J. Domenech


The general objective of this presentation is to show how religion and the religious practices have an influence in the social recognition of the religious practitioners and leaders by the rest of society. My specific objectives will be to research how the social changes will inherit elements of the past and will be kept reinterpreting them and giving them a new meaning. I will focus concretely in how social changes have influence in the social recognition of Shamanic practices and practitioners in Korea. To illustrate this social changes and their influence in the social recognition of the religious practitioner, I will analyse historical texts and religious practices that reflected the changes taking place in society. We will begin analysing Confucian scholar Yi Gyubo (1168-1241) text, “Nomupyeon (Poem of Old Shaman)”, where we can see well reflected the relation between the shamans and the public officials during the second half of Goryeo dynasty. This poem reflects very well the social and political changes taking place in Goryeo society and how religious practices get implicated in power conflicts. We will see how the position of Korean shamans in society was changing as the new social, philosophical and religious ideas from Neo-Confucianism were settling down and spreading through the Korean peninsula. These changes in society will influence the social position of the Shamans and their recognition by the public. As for the religious practices, one of the practices that will have a stronger influence in the social recognition of the practitioners will be the rites offer to the family ancestors. The Confucian ideas will introduce changes in the way ancestors are seen and who are the ancestors that qualify for being worship in the rites. The worshiping of ancestor became a key element to distinguish different religious traditions and those who could take part in the ancestors worshipping practices. All these elements will have an influence in the way religious beliefs and practices are seen by the society and their social recognition.

Speaker Biography

Anthropologist and historian of religions specialize in East Asian and Korea and intercultural and interfaith dialogue. PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Málaga, and MA in History of Religions from Sogang University (Seoul). Director of the Korean program at the University of Malaga and Professor of East Asian Studies. Some of the main areas where his research is focus are the study of Korean culture and religions, International Development Cooperation between Korea and Latin American countries, transcultural exchanges Korea-Latin America, intercultural and interfaith dialogue. He has also done an important work in the promotion of Korean culture in Spanish through his translation of books on Korean culture and literature. His work in promoting the relations between Korea and Spanish speaking world has been recognized by the Korean Government with the Order of Cultural Merit, Hwagwan (Flower Crown), and the 5th LTI Korea Outstanding Service Award. He is co-author of the book Pensamiento y Religión en Asia Oriental (East Asia Philosophy and Religion) and has other publications about Korean and East Asian culture like, “ Korean Religious Beliefs and Practices Illustrated by Films”, “Women in Korean Buddhism”, “Family and Women in Korea: Modernity and Transformation”, “Religion, myths and rituals in Korean women’s World. History, historiography and everyday practices”, “The Encounters of East and West thought in Korean Land”, “East Asian Culture and Society”, “Gender and Family in East Asian Societies”, among others.


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