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Constructing “Korean” Origins: A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-Formation Theories

In this wide-ranging study, Hyung Il Pai examines how archaeological finds from throughout Northeast Asia have been used in Korea to construct a myth of state formation. This myth emphasizes the ancient development of a pure Korean race that created a civilization rivaling those of China and Japan and a unified state controlling a wide area in Asia.

Through a new analysis of the archaeological data, Pai shows that the Korean state was in fact formed much later and that it reflected diverse influences from throughout Northern Asia, particularly the material culture of Han China. Her deconstruction of the uses of the archaeological finds by nationalistic historians reveals how they have been utilized to legitimate Korean nationalism and a particular form of national identity.

Hyung Il Pai is Associate Professor of Korean History and East Asian Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Source: publisher’s website


  1. The Formation of Korean Identity
    • Nationalist Historiography and the Rediscovery of Korea
    • Archaeology and Ancient History in Identity Construction
  2. The Colonial Origins of Prehistoric Korea
    • Japanese Archaeology and Ethnography in the Age of Imperialism (1895–1945)
    • The Japanese Colonial Racial Framework and Chōsenjin Studies
    • The “Prehistoric/Primitive” Ethnogenesis of Northeast Asian Peoples
  3. The Mythical Origins of Ancient Korea
    • Tan’gun Studies and Mythical Ethnic Regeneration
    • Archaeological Reconstruction of Race in Neolithic / Bronze Age Korea
    • The Paleo-Siberian Origins of Korean Shamanism and the Dating of Tan’gun
  4. Korean State-Formation Theories: A Critical Review
    • Colonial Racism and the Invasion Hypothesis
    • Lineage Identity Politics and the Ethnicity of Ancestors
    • An Alternative Approach to the Study of the Early State
  5. Lelang: A Case Study in Cultural Contact and Cultural Change
    • Lelang Studies in East Asian Archaeology and History
    • Acculturation Methodology and Theory
    • Factors of Acculturation
    • Measurement of Acculturation and Mortuary Data
    • Interpretation of Change
    • Chronological Control: The Three Periods of Lelang
    • The Geographic Distribution of Han Sites
    • Lelang Commandery and the T’osŏng-ni Excavations
    • Burial Distribution and Classification
  6. The Lelang Interaction Sphere in Korean Prehistory
    • Burial Analysis Methodology
    • The Five Regions in the Lelang Interaction Sphere
  7. Nationalism and Rewriting the Wrongs of the Past
    • The Symbolic Destruction of the National Museum
    • Korea’s Colonial Mythical Junctures: The Narrative of Resistance
    • Re-orienting “Korean Origins”: The Colonial “Inter-textual” Convergence

Entry on here.

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