This essay reexamines the critical potential of the term “syncretism” by analyzing the cinematic metaphors of the South Korean director, Lee Chang-dong. I discuss the uncanny play of concealment and un-concealment that marks Lee’s films (with particular attention to the 2007 Secret Sunshine), and then turn to recent work by Rey Chow and Susan Buck-Morss on universal history, common humanity, and other forms of community that might offer a more inclusive relation to alterity. The concluding section takes on the accounts of syncretism that we find in Erasmus and Plutarch, which reveal at its core a fundamental ambivalence, violence, and secrecy. I argue that this makes syncretism at once problematic and promising as a figure of imagining a redeemed form of universalism.


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pp. 6-30
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