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Performing Colonial Imagi-nation


This dissertation examines representations of national identity in live performance in Korea and the United States from the early twentieth century to the present. My research focuses on how intermedial performance strategies—performances that incorporate pre-filmed elements, often by projecting film or images into the background of a performance—deploy local cultural and political motifs of South Korean national identity. This work encompasses both early and contemporary performances and reveals that the combination of performance and screen has served as a mode of the postmodern movement of cultural translation. The productions I examine—the pyŏnsa (“film narrator”) performances during the Japanese Colonial Rule, the Korean musical The Last Empress (1995) and Hero (2009), YMAP’s dance piece Madame Freedom (2013), and Ping Chong’s Deshima (1990) and Chinoiserie (1995)—address cultural differences, constructing a space in which Korean audiences can both learn the culture of the Western “Other” and imagine themselves as part of a nation. Using critical readings of selected Korean performances, the research shows that the changing cultural and political climate of the South Korean nation-state creates an urgency for artists to express a particular national identity. By illustrating the shifting rhetoric of the relationship between the individual and the state, such works endeavor to challenge the status quo.

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