The Shaman's Wages
Trading in Ritual on Cheju Island
- PUBLISHED: September 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / Korea, Anthropology
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 256 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 6 b&w illus., 1 map
- SERIES: Korean Studies of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
- ISBN: 9780295745954
Breaking from previous scholarship on Korean shamanism, which focuses on mansin of mainland Korea, The Shaman’s Wages offers the first in-depth study of simbang, hereditary shamans on Cheju Island off the peninsula’s southwest coast. In this engaging ethnography enriched by extensive historical research, Kyoim Yun explores the prevalent and persistent ambivalence toward practitioners, whose services have long been sought out yet derided as wasteful by anti-shaman commentators and occasionally by their clients.
Intrigued by discord between simbang and their clients over fee negotiations, Yun set out to learn the deep-rooted legacy of condemning or trivializing the practitioners’ self-interests, from a neo-Confucian governor’s purge of shrines during the Chosŏn dynasty to the recent transformation of a community ritual into a practice recognized through UNESCO World Heritage status. Drawing on a wealth of firsthand observations, she shows how simbang distinguish ritual exchanges from more mundane instances of bartering, purchasing, bribing, and gift giving and explains why ritual affairs are nonetheless inevitably thorny. This original study illuminates the intertwining of religion and economy in shamanic practice on Cheju Island.
Authors & Contributors
Kyoim Yun is associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures at the University of Kansas.
This is in short an extraordinary book, a corrective for anyone who Orientalizes shamanic ritual.- European Journal of Korean Studies
[A]n interesting encounter with popular religion in the changing circumstances of Cheju.- Journal of Asian Studies
[A] welcome contribution to an arena that has long needed to study monetary transactions in ritual.- Asian Ethnology
[T]he book is inspiring and innovative in terms of the deep and detailed analysis of the multiple meanings of reciprocity in the context of shamanistic rituals.- Acta Koreana
An insightful and valuable contribution to the study of Korean shamanism, it should find a place on the shelf of anyone who wants to have a better and more complete understanding of this living tradition.- Journal of American Folklore
Combining lively on-the-ground ethnography with rich historical analysis, Yun takes readers deep into the ritual economy of Shamanism on Cheju Island, where she insightfully unpacks the interplay of power, money, religion, gender, tourism and global cultural policy.- Michael Foster, professor and department chair of East Asian languages and cultures, University of California, Davis
Kyoim Yun's The Shaman's Wages places the economic dimension of Cheju shamans' ritual front and center, offering historical and contemporary insights into the mutual definition of “economy” and “religion.”- Robert M. Oppenheim, University of Texas at Austin
Allows us to understand Korean shamanism from a new angle and is a worthy addition to the field of Korean Studies and religious anthropology. It will be read by scholars of Korean religion and Korean folk traditions, as well as scholars of shamanism elsewhere.- Don Baker, author of Korean Spirituality