Ph.D., Columbia University, 1979 "Restless Spirits: Shaman and Housewife in Korean Ritual Life"
As an anthropologist focusing on Korea, Dr. Kendall trained in a strong ethnographic and area studies tradition - one that required full speaking and reading fluency in the language, extensive knowledge of the particulars of local life, and detailed analysis of the historical, cultural, political, and economic context within which local realities unfold. Given the close historical and cultural ties within Southeast Asia, she also found it necessary and useful to develop a working knowledge of Chinese and Japanese studies and their languages. In recent years, Dr. Kendall has expanded this horizon to include Vietnam.
When she trained in the 1970s, Dr. Kendall says that she assumed, along with most of her colleagues, that she was preparing to study a rural society through fairly static models. Instead, she found the challenge of working in Korea over the intervening decades has been to apply close-range and long-term ethnography's depth of insight to a fluid, highly urbanized industrial society.
Korea's transformation into the ranks of the newly industrial countries has inspired Dr. Kendall to take a second look at Korean shamans, the subject of her initial 1970s fieldwork. Although shamans are often regarded as "archaic" or "primal" religious practitioners, they are very much a part of the contemporary religious scene. Dr. Kendall's ethnography documents how clients come to shamans for relief from anxieties induced by an unstable and unpredictable market and by precarious credit arrangements.
Her current work concerns the role of material goods in ritual transactions with gods and ancestors. The giving of things to spirits is possibly the most troubling aspect of popular religion for modern rationalists. By interpreting what people do during contemporary shamanic rituals and what clients, shamans, and spirits speaking through shamans have to say about them, she documents how Koreans' use of offerings and ritual props lets them express and dramatize the tangled emotions inherent in a lived history of rapid social transformation and unprecedented material possibility.
Recent Significant Publications
Kendall, L., and A. Bloch. In press. No longer alone upon a tropical beach: the possible futures of ethnography and travel writing. In J. Kuehu (editor), Imperialist and Post-Imperialist Travel Writing. New York and London, Routledge Press.
Kendall, L. 2008. Of hungry ghosts and other matters of consumption in the Republic of Korea: the commodity becomes a ritual prop. American Ethnologist 35: 154-170.
Kendall, L. 2008. Auspicious places in a mobile landscape: of shamans, shrines, and dreams. In T. Tangherlini and S.Yea (editors), Sitings: Critical Approaches to Korean Geography. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press.
Kendall, L. 2006. Something old: remembering Korean wedding hall photographs from the 1980s. Visual Anthropology.19:1-19.
Kendall, L. 2006. Do the four palaces inhabit an East Asian landscape? In K. Fjelstad and H.T. Nguyen (editors), Possessed by the Spirits: Mediumship in Contemporary Vietnamese Communities: 161-182. Ithaca, Cornell University.
Kendall, L. 2006. When the shaman becomes a cultural icon, what happens to efficacy? some observations from Korea. In K.P. Koepping, B. Leistle, and M. Rudolph (editors), Ritual and Identity: Performative Practices as Effective Transformations of Social Reality 195-218. London, LIT Press.
Kendall, L. 2005. Birthmothers and imaginary lives. In T. Volkman (editors), Cultures of Transnational Adoption: 162-181. Durham and London, Duke University Press.
Kendall, L. 2004. When is a kut like a len dong: some notes toward a Korean/Vietnamese comparison. In Ngo Duc Thinh (editor), Mother Goddesses and Some Shamanistic form of Ethnic Groups in Vietnam and Asia: 639-659. Hanoi, Social Sciences Publishing House.
Postdoctoral Fellows, Graduate Students, and Scientific Assistants