Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ambar Basu

Co-Major Professor

Mahuya Pal


Articulation, Critical and Cultural Perspective, Historical Vectors and Forces, Mad Cow Disease, Speculative Analysis, The KorUS Free Trade Agreement


My dissertation is a speculative analysis of the historical contexts of a social protest, based on the notion of "articulation" advanced in the field of cultural studies. Focusing on the 2008 candlelight protest against U.S. beef in South Korea, my goal is to explore the historical contexts of the protest, which formulate the identity of the protest. Since the U.S. beef deal was approved by the Korean government as a precondition for the Free Trade Agreement between Korea and the United States, the protest has been considered (notably by leftists in Korea) as a resistance against post-colonial overtones and fascist eco-political principle in the era of neoliberal globalization. Instead of understanding the protest from such an essentialist perspective, my research makes a commitment to exploring the exterior factors that drove the possibility of the protest. The notion of articulation, a mode of explanation that moves beyond any linear sort of causality, provides a framework to view the protest not as a unity, but as a linkage of multi-dimensional (political, economic, social, and cultural) elements of historical contexts. Based on my journal entries written during my participation in the protest, and the journal articles about the 2008 protest written by the scholars in Korea, I explored the main characteristics of the protest in comparison with the conventional social movements in Korea, and discovered that the 2008 candlelight protest had featured the "food safety issue," "participants with heterogeneous desires," "carnivalesque modality," and an "ambiguous goal." From these main features, I inferred four salient axes of historical vectors (and their forces) including "political democratization and depoliticization," "food industrialization and wellbeing fever," "market liberalization and job insecurity," and "advanced communication technology and carnivalesque culture." My research findings present that the 2008 candlelight protest is not a definite insurgent element calling for any deep change in the dominant political and economic paradigm, but exists as a paradoxical event at the cusp between subordination to and resistance against neoliberal globalization. The main contribution of my research project entails (1) pushing the boundaries of communication studies on social resistance by including the notion of articulation which situates the 2008 candlelight protest within its historical contexts, (2) developing speculative analysis as a critical and cultural studies method for exploring structural forces operating in deep layers of our experiences, (3) delineating the new modalities of contemporary social movements by examining the concrete textures and hues of the 2008 candlelight protest, and (4) offering new ways of (re)thinking the principles of efficiency and economic growth by interrogating a case of food industrialization and global exchange.

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