Bo kyung Blenda Im
Bo kyung Blenda Im is a 2012 ISM/YDS graduate (M.A.R. in religion and music) who received her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology in fall 2019 from the University of Pennsylvania. During the spring 2020 semester, she returned to YDS and the ISM as a lecturer in ethnomusicology. Her ethnographic project “Transpacific Modernity and the Challenge of Belonging: Negotiating Race, Music, and Faith in Seoul” centralizes Korean Christians’ engagements with black gospel and contemporary worship music. Holding the analytics of race, music, and religion in productive tension, she draws attention to the ways in which Korean and Korean diasporic Christians, in their articulations of selfhood and community, navigate and radically contest the normative conditions of transpacific modernity.
EAST 503, MUSI 589, RLST 636
Popular Music and Christianity in Korea
How do Korean popular musicians who identify as Christian position themselves in relation to the sonic worlds they inhabit? In what ways do their stylistic choices signal belonging to and/or disavowal of various social formations in the transpacific cultural imaginary? In this interdisciplinary graduate seminar, we interrogate the relationship between Christianity, popular music, and race through examination of case studies drawn primarily from early twenty-first-century Korea. Musical repertoires are analyzed within a framework that highlights transnational U.S.-Korean routes of religious and musical circulation. First, we address key theoretical and thematic foundations for the course. We then listen closely to important strands in Korean “church music,” including Western classical singing, contemporary worship, and gospel. Finally, we focus on connections between Christianity and R&B/soul, ballad, hip-hop, and “K-pop”—genres traditionally defined as “secular.” This survey of Korean popular music provides students the opportunity to consider the roles that “sacred” and “secular” constructs, race and ethnicity, imperialism, commerce, and aesthetics play in power-inflected processes of cultural globalization.