Social Anthropology
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British Academy Award

The British Academy have awarded Dr Heonik Kwon a £100,000 Research Development Award. The project, New Ancestral Shrines after the Cold War runs from January 2009-June 2010.

New Ancestral Shrines After the Cold War

The project deals with the role of creative religious practices in conflict resolution and in the advancement of political justice. The targeted research areas will mainly be the communities in East Asia, which, once devastated by violent bipolarizing political forces in the midst of the global cold war, are now struggling to overcome the wounds of the past civil conflicts and political violence. The investigation will focus on the new ancestral shrines erected recently in these communities and on the process of family and community repairs associated with these sites. This process relates to the ideological bifurcation of the family genealogy and the related repression of the genealogical history associated with anti-state political activity. The politically non-normative ancestral identities, having been excluded from public memory under the previous anticommunist political rule, have recently begun to enter explicitly the ritual domain of family ancestor worship. As a result the new ancestral monuments not only demonstrate a process of genealogical reconstitution but also constitute politically mixed religious shrines, whose presence in the community testifies to both an enduring legacy of violent bipolar politics and a vigorous communal will to overcome this violent legacy. Through the investigation of these mixed shrines, the project aims to integrate cold war political history analytically with the anthropological study of kinship and religion.