IU Arts and Humanities Council to lead K-pop conference Feb. 26

The IU Arts and Humanities Council will organize an academic conference exploring the global effect of K-pop on music, pop culture and politics Feb. 26 in the Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities. 

As part of this semester’s Korea Remixed festival, the conference will examine the historical, political and cultural influence of K-pop from a variety of disciplines. It is free and open to anyone interested. 

Beginning at 8:45 a.m, the conference will feature talks by six professional K-pop scholars and five IU student scholars. The day will end with a K-pop inspired dance by the UNi.SON student group and K-pop karaoke. The full conference schedule can be found on the IU Arts and Humanities website.

Edward Dallis-Comentale, associate vice provost for IU Arts and Humanities, said he’s looking forward to interacting with scholars from diverse and multidisciplinary backgrounds.

“K-pop is definitely the biggest Korean cultural export at the moment,” Dallis-Comentale said, “We are really dedicating the conference to exploring K-pop in all its dimensions: certainly the music and the bands, but also the economics, the cultural politics, governmentality.” 

Dallis-Comentale said the conference will feature a wide range of academics studying K-pop.

“We immediately went for a roster of the most dynamic thinkers about K-pop today,” Dallis-Comentale said.

Because K-pop has been so widely influential on global pop culture, Dallis-Comentale said the Arts and Humanities Council thought it was essential to include the conference as part of Korea Remixed. He said he believes that the internet, social media and fan culture are partially what skyrocketed K-pop into mainstream, U.S. media attention. 

“One thing that certainly sets K-pop apart is its intense and rabid worldwide fanbase,” Dallis-Comentale said. “You don’t just listen to K-pop, you adore it. You worship it. It becomes a very important part of your soul.” 

Dallis-Comentale said he hopes those attending the conference recognize that K-pop is a complex phenomenon that is worthy of serious, scholarly investigation from many lenses. 

Crystal S. Anderson, affiliate faculty in African American studies at George Mason University, and author of “Soul in Seoul, African American Popular Music in K-pop,” will lead a talk during the conference called “Blowin’ My Mind: Authenticity and Vocal Harmony in K-pop.” 

Specifically, Anderson said she plans to discuss the authenticity of vocals in K-pop and challenge some popular misconceptions that K-pop is superficial or is merely an imitation of Western pop music. 

In her studies, Anderson has explored K-pop’s Western media coverage. She said today in the United States, many individuals hold a narrow conception of K-pop. 

“The construction of K-pop in the popular imagination in the United States still does not fully capture K-pop,” Anderson said.  “It’s subject to the same kinds of factors that every other kind of construction is subject to: the historic relationship between the United States and South Korea, economics and politics and things of that nature.” 

Another conference speaker, Jenna Gibson, a political science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago, plans to lead the talk “Soft Power, Hard Carry? Korean Pop Culture and International Relations.” 

The talk will discuss the powerful hold that Korean pop culture has on international relations and how the South Korean government is able to capitalize on that popularity for its own foreign policy goals, Gibson said. 

“People are bringing very different perspectives, so I’m really excited about it,” Gibson said.

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