LAUREL KENDALL is Curator, Asian Ethnographic Collections, Department of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024, and Adjunct Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.
Korean Shamans and the Spirits of Capitalism
Article first published online: 28 OCT 2009
1996 American Anthropological Association
Volume 98, Issue 3, pages 512–527, September 1996
How to Cite
KENDALL, L. (1996), Korean Shamans and the Spirits of Capitalism. American Anthropologist, 98: 512–527. doi: 10.1525/aa.1996.98.3.02a00060
- Issue published online: 28 OCT 2009
- Article first published online: 28 OCT 2009
Recent studies have taught us that “religion” is not a fixed category but an instrument of popular consciousness. While the studies' subjects have often been victims of colonialism and capitalist exploitation, cultural production through magical means need not be restricted to a society's most oppressed elements. Counter to the expectations of Max Weber, for whom capitalism marched to the drumbeat of “rationalization,” many of the clients who patronize the shaman shrines of Seoul, Republic of Korea, are engaged in high-risk petty-capitalist enterprises. Shamans, clients, and spirits address the seemingly arbitrary fluctuations of good and bad fortune that can bring sudden wealth or ruin, and offer wry commentary upon what their world has become.