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106BOOK REVIEWS more, are germane to the issue. However Hoyt's treatment is highly subjective, providing little more than his own opinions, unsupported by evidence or analysis. These criticisms notwithstanding, The Pusan Perimeter provides a handy one-volume narrative for the general reader. Colonel Donald W. Boose, Jr. United Nations Command, Korea Shamans, Housewives, and Other Restless Spirits: Women in Korean Ritual Life. By Laurel Kendall. Honolulu: University ofHawaii Press, 1985. xiii, 228pp. Plates, Appendixes, Notes, Glossary, Bibliography, Index. $20.00. Any strong bias held by a reviewer ought to be stated at the outset: I first read Kendall's work as a doctoral dissertation, later as a manuscript prepared for publication, and now in book form. I was impressed the first time, and subsequent reworkings have served to make it even better. This is a study of shamans (and of one shaman in particular), and of housewives and their families in a village not too far from Seoul. There Kendall reveals a side of Korean life not adequately covered by conventional scholarship. Her remedy is to provide "an ethnography of Korean women's ritual realm—the rites that demarcate it, the supernatural beings who inhabit it, and the shamans who diagnose its vicissitudes and heal its ills" (p. ix), for there has been lacking any "systematic ethnographic appreciation ofthe who, why, what, where, and when of women's rituals, a gap that precludes generalization on the role of women and shamans in Korean religious life" (p. 38). The book opens with a description of a ritual event, a kut (an elaborate shamanic rite) for Grandfather Chon to cure his nagging illness. Four shamans preside, and they are joined by members of the family and their friends and neighbors. Aside from the sickly old man and his son, the participants are females, and virtually all take some active role. The action commences in the late afternoon and terminates before lunch the next day with breaks for food and sleep. It is a dramatic ritual performance (or series of performances) ranging over a gamut encompassing solemnity as well as low comedy and farce. The remainder of the book may be seen as the unfolding of an explanation for that vividly described event. The following chapter provides a brief overview of the scholarly treatment of shamanism in Korea. Early ethnologists noted the dualism of religion in the family—the males engaging in solemn Confucian rites and the females expelling malevolence in rituals that involved pounding drums, spirit possession, and even raucous laughter. Not surprisingly, the former was viewed as orthodoxy, and the latter as something considerably less respectable, even as superstition. Kendall takes the position that these women's activities are a vital part of Korean ritual life—"Within this religious system, women and shamans perform essential ritual BOOK REVIEWS107 tasks that complement men's ritual tasks" (p. 25). She takes issue with the British social anthropologist I. M. Lewis, who contends that female participation in spirit possession rites throughout many parts of the world may be seen as a feminist outlet for protest against male domination; he terms these activities "peripheral." Kendall disputes this, contending that in Korea these rites comprise "integral components of Korean family and village organization" (p. 25), and hence are in no sense peripheral. The third chapter introduces Enduring Pine Village, a fictional name for her place of residence while conducting field research. Comprising 136 houses and a shifting population, this may be a not-so-typical village, ifindeed such ever existed. However, Yongsu's Mother, who serves as a principal informant, shamanizes over a territory considerably beyond the limits of a single village, taking in other rural villages, the county seat, and on occasion Seoul and its suburbs. In " The Mansin and Her Clients" (Chapter four), the working relationships between the shaman and herhousewife clients are outlined. Although the services of the shaman may be secured for a variety oftasks, in essence the basic function is one of helping to dispel anxiety by promoting the mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing of the family. We also learn how one becomes a shaman and how shamans may team up to furnish special services such as were required in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 106-108
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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