Writing as a Gendered and Engendering Technology: A Case Study of Hangeul in Pre-modern Korea

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As a way of reflecting on writing as a technology and its relationship with gender hierarchy, this paper focuses on Hangeul and its usages by women in pre-modern Korea, Joseon. As an alphabet newly invented for the linguistic minorities such as the commoners and women who had been denied access to the official writing system using Hanja (Chinese characters), Hangeul is both singular and typical. As an invention, it is unique but also just foregrounds the technological nature of writing usually hidden in “natural” writing systems. In terms of social hierarchies inscribed in writing systems, Hangeul is also ambivalent in its implications. It was a form of linguistic segregation in that its primary users were excluded from the linguistic community of Hanja, which remained the official writing system of Joseon. It was, however, also unique being a new empowering technology for the majority of the Joseon population who were able to use a writing system for the first time in Korean history. These people grasped the new writing opportunities offered by the new alphabet and developed it into an independent full-fledged writing system. As Hangeul was often called a “female alphabet,” women were a crucial group among its main users. This paper will examine what Hangeul meant to women and what women did for the construction of a new linguistic technology in its dual aspects of writing and calligraphy.
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ICHSEA2019: 15th International Conference on the History of Science in East Asia, pp.1 - 10

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HSS-Conference Papers(학술회의논문)
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