Facing the Modern: Racial Techné and Blackface Theatre in Korea

  • Soo Ryon YOON (Speaker)

Activity: Talks or PresentationsOther Invited Talks or Presentations


This talk meditates on the practice and technology of blackface performance in Korea in the 20th century as it faced modernity both in the theatrical tradition and in the sociocultural context. Since as early as the 1900s, visual references to blackface minstrelsy (a theatrical caricature of a person of an African decent by a non-black performer using make ups and costumes) began to appear across different mediums – in novels, comics, and theatre stages. In particular, the citational performance and direct mimicry of blackface were used in several performances, for which theatre critics at times noted the “ingenuity” and “craftsmanship” of actors for approximating to blackface visuality. How did blackface performance, the troubled and racist nineteenth century American theatre practice, gain traction in the development of the 20th century modern and realist theatre tradition in Korea? What can reading blackface performance in Korea reveal to us the symptoms of different modernities, as they took the shape of racialized faces? This talk reads across examples of Korean theatrical adaptations and restaged productions such as Porgy and Bess (1935), The Island (1973), and Roots (1976), tracing the history of Korean theatre as it crafted its multivalent faces of the modern.
Period12 Apr 2019
Event titleComparative Literature Festival 2019: TRANSMODERN : Plenary Session: Millions of Moderns
Event typeOther
LocationHong KongShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional