Department of Social Anthropology

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Masteroppgave ved Institutt for sosialantropologi

Producing Desire: South Korea's Neoliberal Economy

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Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, autumn 2015.

By: Amund Stensen
Supervisor: Professsor Andrew Lattas

This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of contemporary processes of individualization and subjectification in relationship to how the South Korean economy is lived in social and cultural terms.

The ethnographic material presented, focus on young adults in Seoul with flexible working hours and how they simultaneously struggle and embrace a culture of work that increasingly occupy leisure time. Special attention is given to privately owned sites that combine leisure time and work, as well as their role in constituting new communities enhancing informal education. I explore how individuals embrace cosmopolitan imaginaries as a part of their self- realization.

English education plays a central role as marker for class and status; it thus takes a special role in the formal and informal educational race, becoming a site for major investment of capital and an intergenerational project. Challenges related to work contains a gendered element, this requires different approaches. The role of cosmetic surgery and beauty is in this thesis conceptualized as a tactic aimed at handling these challenges. The theoretical approach here used to analyze the lived reality of young adults in South Korea, is primarily based on the works of Bourdieu, Foucault and Deleuze. A central argument in this thesis is that subjectivity is constantly created and recreated as the subject internalizes forms of governmentality that emphasizes self-development. Lastly, I explore how Deleuze and Guattari provide a framework for furthering the understandings of Foucault.