A Jester with Chameleon Faces: Laughter and Comedy in North Korea, 1953-1969
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CitationMironenko, Dmitry. 2014. A Jester with Chameleon Faces: Laughter and Comedy in North Korea, 1953-1969. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis dissertation is a study of ordinary North Korean people who have persevered in the face of tremendous social, political, and economic trials throughout their country's modern history and a tribute to their unflagging ingenuity and good humor that allowed them to hold onto their humanity. Focusing on the question of agency within the realm of everyday living, my inquiry examines the emergence of a laughing subject during the post-Korean War period and the state's efforts to discipline him through cinema in the succeeding decade. A product of the new Soviet-sponsored cultural policy of the 1950s that promoted social and political satire across the socialist world, the jester became an identity tactically adopted by various individuals, which was responsible for the proliferation of nonconformist practices in North Korea. Using Michel de Certeau's concept of the everyday as a sphere of creative inventiveness, this work describes and analyzes the small acts of "comic disobedience" by means of which the ordinary person has been able to outmaneuver the existing order and create a thriving underground culture of antidiscipline. Spanning a variety of media from print cartoons to live-action cinema to animation, the official response to the jester's challenge, on one hand, sought to create identifiable comic characters and, on the other, effectively demarcate between humor and satire with a view of turning a jarring cacophony of laughing voices into a harmonious chorus of collective mirth serving the state's needs. Based on Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia, my method of analysis suggests that, despite the government's attempts to eliminate any ambiguity from newly constructed ideological texts, the ordinary individual always finds myriad ways to exercise autonomy through his unending playful subversion of official discourse. By tracing the evolution of this dynamic in the North Korean streets, movie theaters, and film studios over the course of nearly two decades, I argue that the production of formal film comedy was inextricably bound up with the state's desire to interpellate a politically loyal and socially conformist subject and should be seen as part of the larger everyday aesthetic of living that took root within the socialist world.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12274508
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