In premodern Korea, archives were gathered and housed not only in official or state storerooms but also in unofficial sites such as the libraries of lineage associations and local academies. Contributors to this special issue reveal how these archives cast light on what and who were left out of the conventional historiography of premodern Korea, taking the archive beyond its usual definition as a collection of historical documents of the past. Topics include how premodern Korean record-keeping was used to shape contemporary historiographical knowledge of Chosŏn Buddhism; the role of the Catholic Archives in documenting life in Chosŏn Korea; and whether the term “archive,” as used in European traditions, is relevant to premodern Korean traditions. By addressing topics such as the formation and use of archives and the role of archives in the circulation of knowledge, contributors invite a vital conversation about how histories of the archive might reshape stories about premodern Korea.
Contributors. Ksenia Chizhova, Jungwon Kim, Sung-Eun Thomas Kim, Franklin Rausch, Graeme Reynolds, Sem Vermeersch, Sixiang Wang, Yuan Ye
Under the Ancestors’ Eyes presents a new approach to Korean social history by focusing on the origin and development of the indigenous descent group. Martina Deuchler maintains that the surprising continuity of the descent-group model gave the ruling elite cohesion and stability and enabled it to retain power from the early Silla (fifth century) to the late nineteenth century. This argument, underpinned by a fresh interpretation of the late-fourteenth-century Koryŏ-Chosŏn transition, illuminates the role of Neo-Confucianism as an ideological and political device through which the elite regained and maintained dominance during the Chosŏn period. Neo-Confucianism as espoused in Korea did not level the social hierarchy but instead tended to sustain the status system. In the late Chosŏn, it also provided ritual models for the lineage-building with which local elites sustained their preeminence vis-à-vis an intrusive state. Though Neo-Confucianism has often been blamed for the rigidity of late Chosŏn society, it was actually the enduring native kinship ideology that preserved the strict social-status system. By utilizing historical and social anthropological methodology and analyzing a wealth of diverse materials, Deuchler highlights Korea’s distinctive elevation of the social over the political.