Laurel M. Kendall

Laurel M. Kendall


A scholar of popular religion and its material manifestations in East and Southeast Asia, Dr. Kendall began her long acquaintance with South Korean life in 1970 as a US Peace Corps Volunteer, when a chance encounter with female shamans led her to subsequent anthropological fieldwork. Her Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion (University of Hawaii Press, 2009) offers a 30-year perspective on people described in Shamans, Housewives, and other Restless Spirits: Women in Korean Ritual Life (1985) and The Life and Hard Times of a Korean Shaman (1988). In 2010, Korean colleagues awarded Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF the first Yim Suk Jay Prize recognizing a work of anthropology about Korea by a non-Korean. In 2007 the International Society for Shamanic research gave Dr. Kendall a lifetime achievement award. 

Dr. Kendall’s recent work concerns the production and consumption of sacred objects in contemporary market economies, with fieldwork in South Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Bali. A special edition of Asian Ethnology (Volume 63-2, 2008) on this subject, guest-edited by Kendall, brings together the work of a joint research project with the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. Kendall has also written on gender, tradition and modernity, most notably in Getting Married in Korea (1996) and as the editor of Under Construction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class, and Consumption in the Republic of Korea (2002) and Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity: Commodification, Tourism, and Performance (2011).

At the American Museum of Natural History, Kendall has curated several exhibitions, including Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids (2007) and Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind, and Spirit (2003), a unique collaboration with the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology that earned Kendall a Friendship Medal from the Government of Vietnam. Her most recent book, God Pictures in Korean Contexts: The Acquisition and Meaning of Shaman Paintings, is the product of an innovative collaboration with a Korean folklorist (Jongsung Yang) and an art historian (Yul Soo Yoon). Kendall is a former President of the Association for Asian Studies (2016–2017).


Columbia University, PhD, 1979
Columbia University, MPhil, 1977
Columbia University, MA, 1976
University of California, Berkeley, BA, 1969

2018. Coauthor with S. Yuanxie. "Who miniaturizes China? Treaty port souvenirs from Ningbo." In Life in Treaty Port China and Japan, edited by D. Brunero and S.V. Puig, 217–245. New York: Springer Press.

2017. "Things fall apart: material religion and the problem of decay." Journal of Asian Studies 76, no. 4: 861–886.

2017. "Shamans, mountains, and shrines: thinking with electricity in the Republic of Korea." Shaman 25, nos. 1 and 2: 15–21.

2017. "Shamans, bodies, and sex: misreading a Korean ritual." In Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective, edited by C.B. Brettell and C.F. Sargent. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

2017. "The old shaman." In Shamanhood and Mythology: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy and Current Techniques of Research, edited by A. Mátéffy and G. Szabados, 223–230. Budapest: Hungarian Association for the Academic Study of Religions.

2015. Coauthor with J. Yang and Y.S. Yoon. Gods Pictures in Korean Contexts: The Ownership and Meaning of Shaman Paintings. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

2015. Coauthor with J. Yang. “What is an animated image? Korean shaman paintings as objects of ambiguity.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 5, no. 2: 153–175.

2015. "Can Commodities Be Sacred? Material Religion in Seoul and Hanoi." In Handbook of Religion and the Asian City, edited by P. van der Veer, 367–384. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

2015. " A Most Singular and Solitary Expeditionist: Berthold Laufer Collecting China." In The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives, edited by J. A. Bell and E. L. Hasinoff, 60–90. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

2011. Editor. Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

2009. Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

2004. Coauthor with Alexia Bloch. The Museum at the End of the World: Travels in the Post-Soviet Russian Far East. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

2003. Coeditor with Igor Krupnik. Constructing Cultures Then and Now: Celebrating of Franz Boas and the Jesup North Pacific Expedition. Washington, DC: Arctic Studies Center.

2003. Coeditor with Nguyen Van Huy. Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind, and Spirit. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2001. Editor. Under Construction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class and Consumption in the Republic of Korea. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

1996. Getting Married in Korea: of Gender, Morality, and Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

1994. Coeditor with Charles F. Keyes and Helen Hardacre. Asian Visions of Authority: Religion and the Modern States of East and Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

1988. The Life and Hard Times of a Korean Shaman: of Tales and the Telling of Tales. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

1985. Shamans, Housewives, and other Restless Spirits: Women in Korean Ritual Life. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Courses Taught