Anthropology > CASE STUDY > Women, Mobility, and Desire: Narrating Class and Gender in South Korea Nancy Abelmann (All)

Women, Mobility, and Desire: Narrating Class and Gender in South Korea Nancy Abelmann

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In this chapter, I explore tensions in women’s personal narratives on class and social mobility.These narratives are both reflective and constitutive of south Korean popular and political discours... es on contemporary history and social justice. I explore them in relation to a discursive contest over the relative openness or closedness of south Korean society. The belief in open mobility reflects a democratic ideology that celebrates the equal opportunity of every individual to succeed with the requisite hard work (Sewell 1985, 234). An extension of this ideology of opportunity is a tendency to attribute people’s variable social mobility fates to individual characteristics and to the microdynamics of the nuclear family—to interiorize or personalize larger social forces. As class theorist Rosemary Crompton (1993, 7) notes, the sense of equality of opportunity is a “powerful justification of inequality.” In the case of south Korea, the domains of interiorization—that is, nuclear family dynamics, personality, and gender characteristics—are largely assigned to women. Furthermore, the individual attributes or proclivities that are seen as hindering or promoting social mobility are engendered—that is, coded as either male or female. Hence class—mobility and distinction—often is collapsed into or articulated through narratives on individual attributes and gender. On the other hand, there is a competing sense in south Korea that society is quite closed, that there are barriers of opportunity for people who lack particular class capital. Such class capital includes family status, educational background, personal connections, and, of course, economic leeway. Women’s narratives both reflect and produce the social tension between small stories about individuals and nuclear families and larger class narratives about cultural, symbolic, or ideological capital.Women’s narratives of s [Show More]

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