Vol. 9, No. 1 (2013): 5–36.
In September 2009, the leader of the South Korean boy band 2PM, Park Jaebeom (a Korean American from Seattle), ceremoniously “left” Korea after the discovery of a controversial posting on his Myspace account from before he debuted as a singer. Fans were outraged about the extent to which Jaebum was “disciplined” for his past comments and wasted no time in displaying this outrage in the form of protests, sit-ins and performances. These fans were resisting Jaebeom’s dismissal, and by effect the over-reaching power his company, JYP Entertainment, seemed to be extracting. In this paper, I deconstruct the notion of resistance as a “diagnostic of power,” as Abu-Lughod (1990: 42) terms it, where resistance is not a romanticised notion of overthrowing dictatorial regimes or causing wide-spread change, but rather in opposition to hegemonic moments as its own moment in time. I argue that these moments of resistance illustrate not only that consumers are stakeholders in what is produced and how it is produced, but also that these forms of resistance are instances of affective relationships built on intimacy. In other words, these protests serve a dual purpose of recovering the fans’ lost idol (in this case 2PM’s Jay Park) and building intimate networks of friendships predicated not only on shared consumption but also shared resistance. This paper will therefore make some preliminary notes on Korean popular music, delineate theories of resistance as momentary and cathartic, and then introduce the case of 2PM and their fans to illustrate that communities of fans are bound together through their affective resistance.
Timothy Gitzen is a doctoral student of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities. His research focuses on constructions of homosexuality in South Korea and the entanglements with discourses and experiences of kinship, gender, sexuality and nation. His project first began with an ethnographic study of the interrelationship between experiences and discourses of gayness and kinship among self-identified gay college students in a particular Seoul university’s gay club. Identities are multivalent and always in-motion assemblages that incorporate other forms of entanglement without necessitating the destruction of other relationships.
His dissertation research furthers this approach by moving from the first entanglement of sexuality and kinship to other entanglements of sexuality and the state, sexuality and gender, and sexuality and other (perhaps transnational) forms of sexuality. As such, he is interested in how self-identified gay college students in South Korea embody and inscribe (or are inscribed upon) discourses and experiences of gender, sexuality and nation. In addition, he examines the ways in which popular culture and literature can act as informants for ethnography, incorporating characters from film and television dramas into ethnographic writing.
Timothy Gitzen is the author of (Un) Conventional Investments: The Partnership of Avex and SM Entertainment (PEAR 2009) and an upcoming book chapter entitled Mothers and Affect: Encounters with Gay Sons in South Korea.