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Abstract

Specters of Western Metaphysics: Christianity and Colonial Modernity in Early Modern Korea, 1876-1945 examines how the historical imaginations of postcolonialism in Korea is haunted by colonial hegemony. In particular, the dissertation deconstructs the concept of the sovereign subject and traces its intertwinement with Protestant theology and Western metaphysics. I unpack the metaphysical claims undergirding the texts of the Protestant missionaries in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the repetition of this theology in the Enlightenment thought of Yun Ch’i-ho, and the (compromised) attempt to erase this colonial logic in the Marxist writings of Paek Nam-un. By turning to Jacques Derrida’s method of deconstruction, I draw out the following conundrum haunting modern Korean historiography: how can a nation resist colonialism when it reinscribes the terms of the colonizer? In reflecting on the value of deconstruction in Korean Studies, the dissertation offers an intervention by re-thinking our relationship to the practice of history-writing: rather than approaching history as a practice of retrieval, we can instead understand history as the site of inheritance and collective reckoning of our entanglements with a colonial past.

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