Hyaeweol Choi (University of Iowa), “Home Meals in Global Korea: Gendered Labor in the Age of Neoliberalism” (Council on East Asian Studies)

Event time: 
Tuesday, February 28, 2023 - 4:00pm
Luce Hall 203 (34 Hillhouse Avenue) See map
Event description: 
Jipbap is the term that Koreans use for meals cooked at home. People often think home meals are ordinary, mundane and unnecessary to analyze. However, in recent decades a discourse on jipbap has emerged in print and visual media. In this presentation I approach jipbap as a historical concept that is varied, contested, and shifting. It intersects with aspects of gender, class, place, and age, among other factors; therefore, jipbap offers an expedient lens for investigating the changing gender dynamics and the interplay between the public and the private. I specifically ask: why has jipbap become a focus at this particular historical moment; how does the circulation and capitalization of jipbap in Korea intersect with the neoliberal economy and ethos, which emphasizes individual choices and ambitions over structural constraints; and how does the discourse on and performance of jipbap in the popular media maintain, reinforce or challenge the longstanding gendered domains. I offer a range of data to demonstrate that the recent popularity of jipbap is an example of how patriarchy adapts to new circumstances. I also illustrate how mundane practices like eating and cooking can be a site of community-based new life politics.
Hyaeweol Choi is the C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Korea Foundation Chair in Korean Studies at the University of Iowa. Her research interests are in the areas of gender, empire, modernity, religion, food and body, and transnational history. She is the author of Gender and Mission Encounters in Korea; New Women, Old Ways (2009), New Women in Colonial Korea: A Sourcebook (2013) and Gender Politics at Home and Abroad: Protestant Modernity in Colonial-Era Korea (2020) among others. Her current research project, entitled “Food and the Life Politics of Domesticity in Global Korea,” examines the domestic as the confluence of the local, public, global and environmental structures, aiming to shed new light on everyday gender politics and performance through food ethics and practices in the current age of excess, inequality and ecological crises.
Hyaeweol Choi - C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Korea Foundation Chair in Korean Studies, University of Iowa