Songs of Seoul is an ethnographic study of voice in South Korea, where the performance of Western opera, art songs, and choral music is an overwhelmingly Evangelical Christian enterprise. Drawing on fieldwork in churches, concert halls, and schools of music, Harkness argues that the European-style classical voice has become a specifically Christian emblem of South Korean prosperity. By cultivating certain qualities of voice and suppressing others, Korean Christians strive to personally embody the social transformations promised by their religion: from superstition to enlightenment; from dictatorship to democracy; from sickness to health; from poverty to wealth; from dirtiness to cleanliness; from sadness to joy; from suffering to grace. Tackling the problematic of voice in anthropology and across a number of disciplines, Songs of Seoul develops an innovative semiotic approach to connecting the materiality of body and sound, the social life of speech and song, and the cultural voicing of perspective and personhood.
"Voice from the North" resurrects the forgotten historical memory of the people and region in late Choson Korea while also enriching the social history of the country. Sun Joo Kim accomplishes this by examining the life and work of Yi Sihang, a historically obscure person from a hinterland in Korea's northwestern region who was also a member of the literati. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Yi Sihang left numerous writings on his region's history and culture, and on the political and social discrimination that he and others in his region faced from the central elite.
This work explores a regional history and culture through the frames of microhistory and historical memory. Kim criticizes the historiographical problem of "otherizing" the northern region and fills a gap in Korean historiography—the lack of historical study of the northern region from a regional perspective, P'yongan Province in particular. The biographical format of this work engages readers in the investigation of a person's life within the changing world of his time and also creates a space where private and public intersect. Kim places Yi Sihang at the center of the historical stage while describing, analyzing, and reconstructing the world around him through his life story.