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In Session: Desiring Jeju: Place-Making and Landscape at Korea’s Periphery
4: Sensing, Noticing, and Unpacking Jeju Island’s Landscapes
Friday, March 26, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, United States
This presentation focuses on the political ecology of Jeju nature, looking at various dimensions of “differences” that constitute Jeju Island, differences that have been shaped not only by Jeju’s semi-tropical natural environment but also by its particular historical trajectories. Drawn from my 2017 participant observation in an environmental education program run by an environmental NGO on Jeju Island that focused on “ecology interpretation” (saengt'ae haesŏl), my paper will chart out the ways in which the human and non-human histories of Jeju Island are unpacked and articulated in moments of sensing, noticing, and learning the names of Jeju native species and the unique volcanic geologies that together have created the Jeju “ecology” that is embedded in Jeju’s natural and social landscapes.
Recently, many scholars in anthropology, political ecology, and the wider environmental humanities have discussed landscapes as ethnographic sites of gathering for humans and non-humans that emerge, flourish and disappear in dynamic interaction. My paper will take up the concept of “ecology” as an analytic lens that enables us to delve deeply into the particular stories of the entanglements of Jeju Islanders and the natural environment. Nature interpretation in Jeju Island has come to be understood as the work of deciphering Jeju landscapes and translating Jeju stories to those who are unfamiliar to both Jeju Island’s natural environment and its human histories. In this context, my presentation will examine Jeju ecology as a site of contestation that arises from Jeju Island’s cultural, natural, and historical distinctions/divergences from the mainland.