Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Timothy . Rommen


This dissertation examines the entanglements between race, music, and religion in the constitution of transpacific modernity. Holding these three analytics in productive tension, I focus on the ways in which musical style powerfully animates Korean and Korean diasporic Christians’ negotiations of selfhood and community in the 21st century. I draw from 37 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Seoul (2015-2018) to examine how two Christian communities – Heritage Ministry, a non-profit organization that specializes in black gospel music performance, and Jubilee Church, an interdenominational church of majority Korean coethnic return migrants – negotiate the historical legacy of Euro-Western modernity. Following the Introduction, the dissertation is subdivided into three parts. Part I (Chapter 1) synthesizes transpacific histories and sound studies theory to outline the Euro-Western imperialist aurality that emerged at the turn of the 20th century. Part II (Chapters 2 and 3) attends to black gospel performance. In Chapter 2 I address Heritage Ministry’s re-formulation of “worship” through localization of black gospel, and in Chapter 3 I theorize the relationship between religious aesthetics and modernity. Part III (Chapters 4 and 5) addresses contemporary worship music performance. Chapter 4 focuses on the affective affordances that obtain in contemporary worship music performance at Jubilee. Finally, in Chapter 5, I detail two worship concerts in Seoul headlined by white Westerners, and offer a critique of the lasting power differentials that inform transpacific worship music production. I argue that Korean and Korean diasporans negotiate complex structural legacies of transpacific modernity through musical and religious articulations of selfhood and community. South Korean Christian modernity cannot be thought apart from its relation to the West, especially the United States, and the disciplining of transpacific Christian musicality has at stake competing ideals of social belonging that are complicated by understandings of race, ethnicity, and diaspora. My study contributes to contemporary debates on transpacific modernity and cultural globalization in ethnomusicology and a broad spectrum of humanities disciplines, including religious studies, anthropology, area studies, and ethnic studies.

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