Academic journal article The Historian

Colonial Rule and Social Change in Korea, 1910-1945

Academic journal article The Historian

Colonial Rule and Social Change in Korea, 1910-1945

Article excerpt

Colonial Rule and Social Change in Korea, 1910-1945. Edited by Hong Yung Lee, Yong-Chool Ha, and Clark W. Sorensen. (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2013. Pp. xi, 379. $45.00.)

Featuring the work of South Korean scholars, this collection of essays offers examinations of various aspects of the social landscape of Korea under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. The introduction by Hong Yung Lee positions the volume as a critique of the "colonial modernity" framework that has been dominant in studies of colonial Korea for more than a decade, particularly in the North American academy. The colonial modernity paradigm is accused of privileging the archives of colonial authorities, of emphasizing economic over political aspects of colonialism, and of attributing much of the success of post-1945 Korean development to Japanese colonial agency. For most who have read deeply in the colonial modernity literature, however, this line of criticism will seem misplaced or, at best, based upon highly selective readings. Notably, plenty of authors who have written under the banner of colonial modernity have been thoroughly invested in understanding this modernity as an ambivalent sociocultural condition and ideal, complexly and problematically shared across the colonial milieu, rather than equating it with economistic modernization that may only "succeed" or "fail." Somewhat more tellingly, the introduction criticizes colonial modernity writings for rendering the nationalistic narrative ostensibly present in much Korean scholarship as a strawman, but Lee's version of colonial modernity itself is made of the same stuff(ing).

Yet beyond these false premises of the introduction, the volume makes valuable contributions and offers an overall understanding that, if not diametrically opposed to the colonial modernity framework, significantly shifts the point of emphasis. …

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