This article emerges from an attempt to better understand the social instantiation of political norms in the Chosŏn period, or how state–society negotiations over ideal subjecthood engendered the early modern Korean polis. Following debates over subjecthood in post–Imjin War memorialization—over who could constitute a loyal subject—reveals how Chosŏn people imagined their duties to the state, and how the government conceived of its obligations to its people. Contestations over socially marginal and unexpected war heroes—like Buddhist monks—were ultimately arguments over political normativity and where the borders of the polis should fall. Analyzing the commemoration of the Buddhist monk Yujŏng, this study argues that Imjin War memorialization fueled a pluralistic, albeit limited, expansion of ideal subjecthood while reproducing state legitimacy. Such a sociopolitical liberalization in the late Chosŏn period undermines a deterministic view of premodern state power as a unilateral, top-down process.


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pp. 45-74
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