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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Branching Out: Studying Social Networks in Chosŏn Korea and Qing China
2: Network Cohesion and Localized Yangban Assemblages in Early Modern Korea
Monday, March 22, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
This paper examines the mechanisms that held early modern Korea’s yangban elite communities together using social microdata and illustrative anecdotes. The localization of society that began in the sixteenth century divided theyangban population into communities fighting the forces of substratification. In the capital, pŏryŏl oligarchs in the greater Seoul region monopolized appointments in central officialdom and placed heavy emphasis on literary composition. The southern yangban formed various mutual-aid organizations based on the Neo-Confucian spirit of voluntarism. Meanwhile, educated northerners pursued the classics-expertise examinations degrees in order to prove their worth, due to the widespread prejudices about the region. Despite the existence of such hard boundaries, these yangban assemblages remained loyal to the central states. The relatively homogenous core remained stable while peripheral members experienced decline. Recent body of research have provided ample observations pertaining to early modern Korea’s localization, but the dynamics of status retention, marriage alliance, education, and codification of distinct norms demand in-depth inquiry. Methods are drawn from historical sociology, assemblage theory, and social physics. Data sets and case examples have been assembled from examination rosters, court annals, private writings, and local archives in digital form. Particular attention will be given to the conversion of tabular and XML data into graph format and the challenge of measuring network cohesion and intensive properties.