Asian Ethnology


Dr. Laurel Kendall (Ph.D. with distinction, Columbia University 1979) is Curator of Asian Ethnographic Collections and Chair of the AMNH's Anthropology Division as well as Adjunct (full) Professor at Columbia University. Kendall's long acquaintance with South Korean life began in 1970 as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer where a chance encounter with female shamans led her to subsequent anthropological fieldwork.
Her recently published Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion (University of Hawaii Press, 2009) offers a thirty year perspective on people described in Shamans, Housewives, and other Restless Spirits: Women in Korean Ritual Life (1985) and The Life and Hard Times of a Korean Shaman (1988). In 2007 the International Society for Shamanic research gave Kendall a lifetime achievement award.

Kendall has also written on gendered perceptions of tradition and modernity, most notably in Getting Married in Korea (1996) and as the editor of Under Construction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class, and Consumption in the Republic of Korea (2002). Recent work includes research on popular religious revivals in Vietnam and sacred objects in modern East Asian markets. A special edition of Asian Ethnology (Volume 63-2, 2008) on this subject, guest edited by Kendall, brings together the work of a joint research project with the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.

At AMNH, Kendall has curated several exhibitions, including Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids (2007) and Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind, and Spirit (2003), a unique collaboration between AMNH and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology which earned Kendall a Friendship Medal from the Government of Vietnam. Kendall is editor of a monograph series on the "Contemporary Anthropology of Religion" sponsored by the Society for the Anthropology of Religion, American Anthropological Association (AAA), and was recently President of the Society for East Asian Anthropology (SEAA).

Korean Shamans

Research

Korean Shamans

Based on years of participant observation, this in-depth access to the world of Korean shamans and their clients in the intimate context of village life has not been matched.

Sacred Stuff and the Market

Research

Sacred Stuff and the Market

Anthropological studies of sacred objects have typically concerned their production and use in pre-industrial settings; indeed the age of mechanical reproduction is often counter-posed to belief in the magical power of things. Current research in the market economies of East and Southeast Asia forces a qualification.

A Vietnam Journey

Research

A Vietnam Journey

The creation of Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind, and Spirit (AMNH 2003) marked the beginning of a new journey: the first major collaboration between a Vietnamese museum and an American museum on an exhibition of Vietnamese cultures. The exhibit, born of a mutual interest in moving beyond the legacy of the Vietnamese/American War, delves into a deeper portrayal of daily Vietnamese life at the start of the twenty-first century.

China for the Anthropologist

Research

China for the Anthropologist

 In 1903, Berthold Laufer wrote from Xi'an, China to his mentor, Franz Boas at AMNH: "I shall conquer China . . . [for] the anthropologist. China, no longer the exclusive domain of travelers and sinologues, both narrow-minded and one-sided in their standpoints and researches, China to all who have anthropological interests."