Of hungry ghosts and other matters of consumption in the Republic of Korea: The commodity becomes a ritual prop

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ABSTRACT

Contemporary South Korean shaman rituals (kut) incorporate new consumer goods as agentive “props,” foci that provoke mime and commentary in dramatic interactions between shamans, clients, gods, and ancestors. In the 1990s, much of this object-centered performance concerned the moral ambiguities of consumption, an appreciation facilitated by an analytic focus on the prop itself. In this study, I argue that the play of props in ritual conveys otherwise elusive nuances regarding the play of things in everyday life and that, when new consumer goods assume the status of props, they enable commentary on the moral paradox of getting and having. [prop, consumption, commodity, South Korea, shaman, ritual, materiality]

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