Versatile Modernity: Ordinary Culture, Politics, and Cultural Performance from 1905 to 1919, Korea

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Versatile Modernity: Ordinary Culture, Politics, and Cultural Performance from 1905 to 1919, Korea

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


This dissertation examines Korean civilization in cultural realm by analyzing the execution and implementation of Korea’s projects of modernity. The Korean government drove the civilizing project during the late Dae-han Empire period (1905-1910), and then the Japanese government general took over its initiative in the first decade of Japanese colonial rule (1910-1919). The Korean civilizing project demanded production of a post-Confucian subject (a man of knowledge-intelligence (智), morals-virtue (德) and corporeal body (體) who is born free and equal) and of citizens of either the Dae-han Empire or the colonial state of Japanese Empire. I investigate how state actors, the state’s proxy agents, and civil communities co-performed using western cultural machines (domestic exhibitions, sports meetings and commercial theaters) in order to fashion the post-Confucian man and foster his capacities as a rational, corporeal and moral actor, and as a legitimate member of a nation and a colonial state. I demonstrate that each of these Korean cultural performance sites contributed to establishing an ordinary culture of free, equal men of knowledge-intellect (智), corporeal body (體) and morals-virtue (德) that catered to emerging capitalist society and modern forms of state. I propose that this subject formation by cultural productions at each site constituted a versatile modernity because this process not only spanned the separate political periods, but also connected to general processes in global modernization. Further I suggest that the Korean cultural performance continuum during the two political eras worked to structure the social, political life of citizens of the Dae-han Empire and the colonial state in collectivistic way such that the citizenry placed the goals and interests of the state over individual rights and interests. I conclude that collectivism was a core descriptive trait of Korean civilization in contrast to Western individualism through which it adapted the “late starter” modernization projects of other states aiming to catch up to the early starters (European powers) in global economic, political and military competition.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2020. Major: Theatre Arts. Advisors: Margaret Werry, Sonja Kuftinec. 1 computer file (PDF); 236 pages.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Hong, Hyo Jeong. (2020). Versatile Modernity: Ordinary Culture, Politics, and Cultural Performance from 1905 to 1919, Korea. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.