Toward a Multisensorial Semiotic Linguistics: Embodied Affect and Mediatization in Transnational Korean Popular Culture
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Toward a Multisensorial Semiotic Linguistics: Embodied Affect and Mediatization in Transnational Korean Popular Culture


My dissertation project investigates the circulation of Korean popular cultural genres online and offline among producers and their consumer-fans in the transnational encounters of South Korea, Mexico, and the United States. This project reveals how global flows of capital mediated by technology are profoundly tied to everyday embodied praxis. Each of my dissertation’s analytic chapters, written as standalone articles, focuses on a different genre of Korean popular culture. The first chapter examines K-pop dance covers, or fan recreations of meticulously choreographed K-pop dance performances. The second genre, mukbang, an online category of spectacular eating shows in which performers document themselves consuming copious amounts of food, sometimes interacting live with fans. Finally, K-beauty content includes website and interview analyses of young Korean American women who discuss Korean cosmetic and beauty products, trends, and practices.My analyses reveal that race, gender, and national identity are reconfigured in unexpected ways in these performances as part of the creation of a vicarious experience of bodily pleasure for viewers. For instance, male K-pop dancers in Mexico perform feminized Korean ‘cuteness’ through linguistic pronouncements of love and gestures, challenging local hegemonic notions of masculinity while shaping the contours of a local K-pop subculture. Korean American K-beauty entrepreneurs position themselves as cultural experts by discursively linking a nostalgic Korean past to recent trends in skincare. Online eating stars engage in complex multimodal work to create a pleasurable visual and sonic experience for their viewers. These online actors perform technologically mediated care work by evoking smell, taste, and texture for viewers through language and embodied displays. Language takes on sensory qualities through performers’ affective work which is often performed in racialized and gendered forms, promoting online circulation as well as offline affective resonance with the viewer/consumer. Such performances highlight the roles of language, materiality, and embodied action in crafting mediated care and sociality online. By treating language as one component of a much more complex system involving multiple senses and modalities, my work champions what I call a multisensorial semiotics in virtual spaces. Such an approach entails analytic attention to multimodal interaction as well the prominence of the senses in some mediatized performances.

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