Laurel M Kendall

Laurel M Kendall

Research Interest

Korean anthropology focusing on shamans, popular religion in Korea and Vietnam, material culture in religion and as heritage, museum practices

As an anthropologist of Korea, Dr. Kendall has been working with and writing about Korean shamans for more than forty years after an encounter in the early 1970s as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea.  She first became interested in the relationship between this largely female tradition and the operation of gender in Korean popular religion. Subsequent work included a study of late 20th century marriage practices followed by a study of shamanic responses to a rapidly transforming South Korean society, considering questions of space and landscape, performance, ritual consumption, national identity, and market anxieties.   

Work with colleagues in Hanoi, Vietnam, on religious images explored the relationship between people and objects, relationships that have rules, obligations, potential benefits, and dangers. Kendall took these interests back to Korea with study of shaman paintings and then a broadly comparative project on the interactions of shamans and spirit mediums with statues, paintings, and masks in Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Bali, Indonesia.  Her current work concerns studio photography as handicraft in Vietnam, Korean objects that become Korean icons, and the social relations of Balinese masks.  

Dr. Kendall’s many publications include “Mediums and Magical Things: Statues, Paintings, and Masks in Asian Places (University of California Press, 2021),  “God Pictures in Korean Contexts: The Ownership and Meaning of Shaman Paintings” (with Jongsung Yang and Yul Soo Yoon, University of Hawaii Press, 2015), “Shamans, Nostalgias and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion” (University of Hawai`I Press, 2009), “Getting Married in Korea: Of Gender, Morality, and Modernity” (University of California Press, 1996), “The Life and Hard Times of a Korean Shaman: Of Tales and the Telling of Tales” (University of Hawaii Press, 1988) and “Shamans, Housewives, and Other Restless Spirits: Women in Korean Ritual Life” (University of Hawaii Press, 1985). She edited “Under Construction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class, and Consumption in the Republic of Korea” (University of Hawaii Press, 2001) and six other books. She is co-author of “The Museum at the End of the World: Travels in the Post-Soviet Russian Far East” (with Alexia Bloch, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005). 



Laurel Kendall, Mediums and Magical Things: Statues, Paintings and Masks in Asian Places (University of California Press, 2021). 

Laurel Kendall, Jongsung Yang, and Yul Soo Yoon, editors, God Pictures in Korean Contexts: The Ownership and Meaning of Shaman Paintings(University of Hawaii Press, 2015). 

Laurel Kendall, editor, Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity: Commodification, Tourism, and Performance(University of Hawaii Press, 2010). 

Laurel Kendall, Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion (University of Hawaii Press, 2009). 

Laurel Kendall, The Life and Hard Times of a Korean Shaman: Of Tales and Telling Tales (University of Hawaii Press, 1988). 

Laurel Kendall, Shamans, Housewives, and Other Restless Spirits (University of Hawai’i Press, 1985).