The Crisis of “Society” and the Explosion of “The Social”: Social Construction Projects in South Korea and China

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Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

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This paper, which I wrote with Seung-Cheol Lee, gives attention to the coexistence between increasing concerns about the “crisis” of society and increasing “social construction” projects exercised in the name of “the social.” Under circumstances where neoliberal doctrines penetrate deep into a realm of subjectification, how can we understand the reality that “society” is central to state governance and, furthermore, reconstructed as an ethical field? With an eye to recent projects of social construction in South Korea and China, this study aims to answer the following inquiries. How can social construction projects be analyzed and contextualized in countries where the state did not go through the so-called stage of “social government” found in the Western welfare state? How does the state accomplish a double mission to disperse its functions to social realms and re-articulate managerial power when it intervenes in social construction projects? How do various participants in social construction projects in the two countries experience and react to the tensions between “society” as the assemblage of social rights, solidarities, and socialities, and “society” as the target of state governance and engineered projects?

Mun Young Cho is an associate professor of the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Yonsei University, South Korea. Her research focuses on poverty, labor, development, and youth in China and South Korea. She is the author of the book The Specter of “The People”: Urban Poverty in Northeast China (Cornell University Press, 2013).


Rachel Ostep


Mun Young Cho
Associate Professor, Dept. of Cultural Anthropology, Yonsei University, South Korea)

Jesook Song
Acting Director, Centre for the Study of Korea; Professor, Department of Anthropology

Kevin O'Neill
Professor, Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for the Study of Diaspora and Transnationalism, University of Toronto

Andrea Muehlebach
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Main Sponsor

Centre for the Study of Korea


Asian Institute

Centre for Diaspora and Transnationalism Studies


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