An Asian Frontier: American Anthropology and Korea, 1882-1945

By Robert Oppenheim | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION
LEGACIES

The aim of this book has not been to locate a single legacy of early relations of American anthropology and Korea in the form of some overarching intellectual tendency that the more recent anthropology of Korea has inherited from the past. No dominant theoretical paradigm for anthropological study of Korea emerged from the period before 1945 to exert an outsized influence on the enterprise since, as culture and personality and national character studies are sometimes seen to have done in relation to the anthropology of Japan.1 No “gatekeeping” concepts appeared on the order of caste in the study of India, to become checkpoints for Korean studies or for anthropology more broadly.2 No champion emerges from the mists of time. Horace Allen is remembered for many things in Korean history, but not as an anthropological collector, while the “card-carrying” anthropologists of this book for whom Korea was a major interest—Walter Hough, Stewart Culin, Frederick Starr, and Aleš Hrdlička—are largely forgotten apart from disciplinary historians and a few specialist circles. One strains to hear the mourning. There is no red thread, no straight affirmative arrow from past to present.

Yet there are other ways of reckoning legacies, and others too of locating significance. My first purpose has been to tell, via the concreteness of the figurations and uses of Korea from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth, a series of relational stories about American

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