This issue of paideia takes a critical look at the methods and sources we use to produce knowledge. These essays showcase new disciplinary methods applied both specifically to North Korea and more broadly.
There’s an impulse to reflect, to take stock, heightened by these crisis times. The pandemic also makes us hyper aware of our senses, not just because symptoms of Covid-19 include the loss of smell. We now communicate through intermediating layers of screens and masks, and we must negotiate our relationship to the physical spaces around us. Of course, entry to knowledge production—archives, libraries, universities, and sites of fieldwork—have always been mediated by power, whether as access to passports and visas, funding for travel, language training, or other forms of capital. It seems an opportune time therefore to think critically about the methods and sources we use to produce knowledge. …
Co-editors of Critical Methods for the Study of World Politics: Creativity and Transformation (2019), Shine Choi, Anna Selmeczi, Erzsébet Strausz open this issue of paideia with an intimate conversation—including recorded sound morsels—about their book. They reflect on the “dirty business” of institutionalized education and research, urging us to rebuild pedagogy as an embodied experience that would authorize those directly engaged in learning. How do we break the mold of conventional knowledge production for genuine relief, that is, liberation? Picking up on this, anthropologists Lisa Min and Annie Malcolm juxtapose haunting images and evocative references to colors, materials, and places to ask what nostalgia can do as a kind of “historical emotion.” They offer an experimental way to access the rupture of the “post” in post-socialism to narrow the distance to “time out of time.”
The subsequent essays showcase new disciplinary methods applied specifically to North Korea composed by scholars positioned in South Korea. They point to the added layer of methodological challenges that situated knowledge brings. Hee Sun Choi, as a practicing designer, places the “industrial arts” at the intersection of art, politics, and economy, highlighting potential insights of her approach despite the lack of direct access to objects of her study. Then, literary scholar Seong-Su Kim discusses the application of media studies and metadata analysis to North Korean literature to argue that recognition of “exiled” writers is the first step toward a literary history that encompasses both Koreas. Carey Park examines the process of visual agitation and propaganda, in which local villagers participate as both protagonists and creators, to argue that agitprop is internalized in North Korea precisely through the relational aesthetics forged in that process. Last but not least, Peter Moody as a PhD candidate “in the field” introduces two new resources in the study of North Korea, the Bukjoseon Sillok and the North Korean Music Resource Room at the National Gugak Museum.
Update: The co-edited book on “doing fieldwork in North Korea” by Valérie Gelézeau and Benjamin Joinau was not yet published to be included in paideia issue 2 (Fall 2021), but given the stir it has caused as an “Unidentified Literary Object” and the methodological experimentation embodied in both its form and content, this additional contribution seems especially apt, and timely too, in Fall 2022.
— Suzy Kim, editor