Karuta かるた: Bodies in a Sporting Art

By Elaine Wong • BSc Anthropology

Karuta is based on Japanese classical poetry, but the game itself is like a sport. I think you can’t find it in any other country. I mean, classical literature has been turned into a sports game! I think that, even if you don’t understand Japanese, you can still enjoy it…it can be a good introduction to a broader understanding of Japanese culture.”
– (Akiko, Japanese female, aged 27)

Anthropologists discuss the body through a large variety of perspectives. Amongst them, anthropologist Bruno Latour (2004) tries to define the body as an interface that can learn how to be affected in specialised ways. Here, I would like to demonstrate how his idea resonates with the practice of karuta.

img56455762Figure 1. Picture of cards depicting the first (left) and second (right) verses of a poem (Bernard 2014)

What is karuta?

Kyogi karuta (競技かるた) is a traditional Japanese card game that is based on a collection of 100 poems by 100 different poets called Hyakunin Isshu (百人一首). Each of the 100 cards used in the card game has one of these poems on it, but only the second verse. A reciter is present to read the poems in a random order. The goal is to quickly touch the corresponding card with the second verse when the first verse is being read by the reciter. Karuta has a set of complex rules of sportsmanship and etiquette, and requires a lot of mental and physical effort to play. This includes memorising the cards of all the poems, and strategising the placements of each card on a wide platform (as well as memorising the placements themselves). Moreover, you are expected to react quickly to subtleties of sound, and move the body efficiently to reach each card in time. To find out about the standard technicalities and progression of the game in more detail, please click here.

Karuta in London is a karuta-practising community founded in 2016 by, Momoko Okuyama, a 3rd year BASc Arts and Sciences student at UCL. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of filming one of their weekly practice sessions. After the session, I interviewed two players – Momoko and Akiko (pseudonyms) – with questions based on my observations during their matches. In the interest of anthropology, recurring themes of memory, body technique and sensorial experience arise in the playing of karuta.


Figure 2. Photo taken by author of Karuta players during a practice match hosted by Karuta in London

Practise, memorise, practise

  • Body techniques
    • Momoko and Akiko have highlighted that you need to pay attention to the way you swing your arm, as well as the shape of your hands to reach the cards as quickly and efficiently as possible. To facilitate this, your body posture is crucial too. We can see this in their practice session in the video, as most of the players were practicing their arm swings and hand slams in-between citations.
  • Memorising the poems
    • Momoko and Akiko spent around 3-5 months memorising all 100 cards, but of course, they said that it depends on the person.
    • A: “Personally, I already like the more famous classics, so those ones are easier to remember. When I look at a card, I see a visual…an image. Linking it with the image, I understand the meaning of the poem…I also practice the actual memorisation of the cards. The faster you [recall your memory], the better you get at playing karuta” (e.g. the quicker you can get the cards).
    • M: “I also did a lot of practice with reading out the cards. It allows me to internalise the rhythm that I’m supposed to move my body in. In a sense, I’m using my own reading as a way to let all the parts of my body, not just my hand… like this is how you’re meant to move depending on the poem that’s read at this rhythm. I think sound and music could be an important component. When I say music it’s mostly just the rhythm. At which second is the first syllable read [by the reciter etc.]”


Figure 3. Illustration from the World of Kyogi Karuta, of the moment when karuta players compete to take a card

Experiencing the ‘rhythm’ of karuta

During the practice session, I often noticed the players (even if they were not playing against each other) moving in sync when specific syllables were recited. Rhythm, as Momoko has hinted, matters significantly when playing karuta. I asked her, “during a karuta match, what usually goes on inside your head? Do you think about something?”

  • Mindlessness = quicker response
    • M: “When you’re actually playing the game…the moment when you hear the sound of the reader reading the first syllables, it’s not like I’m thinking about ‘something’. Because if I were, then I can’t respond fast enough to take the card from my opponent. It’s only when I empty my mind… I just focus on the sound and ‘knowing’ the positions of the cards.”
  • Waiting for the ‘right’ moment
    • M: “In terms of the sensation… when I touch the correct card, that’s when I get this sense of satisfaction… For me, at the start you don’t have an expected ‘rhythm’ when you’re taking the cards. But when you practice again and again you start to get the rhythm. When you manage to take a one-syllable card out of a hundred cards, that is the correct one. And then you have two-syllable cards where you have to listen for two syllables before you know which one it is. And three and four, and so on. I learnt the three-syllable ones first. For example, ‘arima‘ is a card that you can take after having heard the a-ri-ma. And when I know that I touched it right when I heard the ‘m’ of the reader, that’s when I feel the satisfaction. It’s not so much about who’s sitting in front of me but just the fact that I took it at the ‘right’ moment. Not faster than the other person, but just the fact that it was spot-on.”
  • Different ways of sensing sound
    • M: “Some people say that they also listen to the height… I mean the pitch! For example, they say this is an ‘a’ that started with a high pitch, then the next words must be this instead of something else. I’m not able to do it, I’m not at that level. Some people have a lot of talent in this area. For me I can’t do it with the pitch, but I can do it sometimes with the length of the syllable, which also relates back to rhythm.”

Overall, we see that a lot of sensorial elements are involved in the practice of karuta. Through the process of memorising and practising, Momoko and Akiko formed their own aesthetic relationships with the words on the cards as foundations for their own techniques. By understanding the poems, they can automatically recall them by visualising the meanings themselves. Additionally, they train their bodies regularly to continuously enhance their physical and mental reactions for obtaining the cards as quickly as possible. In Latour’s terms, they have gone from being “dumb” to karuta to becoming karuta bodies.

On a side note, if you are interested in trying the sport, please contact Momoko at karuta.london@gmail.com. Whether you have only just heard of karuta now, or are a well-seasoned player already, Karuta in London welcomes all levels, backgrounds and interests. It is a rare opportunity in London and a great way to get to know more about Japanese culture hands-on!


Bernard, C. (2014) Karuta: Gotta Catch ‘em All! An old Japanese card game brought into the light. Tofugu.com. Available at: https://www.tofugu.com/japan/karuta-japanese-cards/ [accessed 18 February 2018].

Bull, D. (1996) Karuta: Sport or culture? Japan Quarterly 43(1):67.

Karuta in London (n.d.) About. Available at: https://karutalondon.wordpress.com/about-2/ [accessed 18 February 2018].

Latour, B. (2004) How to Talk About the Body? The normative dimension of science. Body and Society 10(2-3):205-229.

World of Kyogi Karuta (n.d.) Detailed Rules of Kyogi Karuta. Available at: http://karuta.game.coocan.jp/detailedrule-e.html [accessed 18 February 2018].



Fragment of Mourning / Bâb-ı Hüzün


Full moon, Ethiopia, 2017. Credit: A.Nalan Azak

The sea, there is no joy even in the waters,
Rows of waves are beating the edges of my heart.
Moss-grown memories,
The past is always a pink shaded mirage.
Every one of our palms holds a pinch of hope,
Blurring our eyes to adversities when scattered by the wind.
We’re counting days, from our lives, that peace will come one day.

The stars are angry with the sky,
The pen, struck on paper, exiled to pages.
Nostalgia is an ember on my head, my tongue has frozen.
I’m in the season of silence,
Time is at rest, the hour and minute hands have cast anchor in the deep waters.

Denizin, deryanın dahi keyfi yok,
Sıra sıra dalgalar yüreğimin kenarına vuruyor.
Yosun tutmuş hatıralar,
Eskiler her zaman pembe pancurlu serap.
Her birimizin avcunda bir tutam ümit,
Rüzgarla savruldukça gözlerimizi olumsuzluklara kapıyor.
Gün sayıyoruz, ömrümüzden, huzur bir gün çıkıp gelecek diye.

Yıldızlar gökyüzüne küs,
Kalem kağıda vurgun, sayfalara sürgün.
Hasret başımda kor, buz tuttu dilim.
Mevsimlerden sükûttayım,
Zaman işlemiyor şimdi, akrep ve yelkovan derin sularda demir atmış bekliyor.

A.Nalan Azak • MSc Medical Anthropology

In:Dependence – Kraftwerk:Re-werk

By Annamaria Dall’Anese • PhD Anthropology

Lloyd Coleman 1

Lloyd Coleman (Credit: Paul Blakemore)

Lloyd Coleman is the newly appointed associate music director for the world’s largest ensemble of disabled musicians, The British Paraorchestra. This was founded in 2011 by Charles Hazelwood, who is also its artistic director and conductor. Lloyd, alongside Charlotte Harding, has recently composed a compelling musical experiment, Kraftwerk:Re-werk, for both this ensemble and the Army of Generals ensemble. In this piece, he also features as a clarinettist. As part of her Anthropology PhD at UCL, Annamaria Dall’Anese is currently carrying out an ethnography of visually impaired people in London. Drawing on their respective experiences, Lloyd and Annamaria discuss dependency, disability, and music-making.

AD: As you know, I am doing an ethnography of visually impaired people in London. During my fieldwork, I’ve come to realise that in London, and perhaps in Britain more generally, ‘independence’ is a buzzword. It seems to be the main objective, both for visually impaired people themselves and for charitable organizations working with them. It is quite ironic, if you think about it: you are holding a cup of coffee, which other people made for you. Without your dependency on these other people, you would be coffee-less! This is what Durkheim called ‘organic solidarity’ (1984[1893]). Nothing to do with organic coffee, by the way. It just means that in a complex society like ours, we are all dependent on one another. So I think it is interesting to take a step back from the value of independence, even though I embrace it myself, and perhaps question it. A devil’s advocate question that I like to ask is: what on earth is wrong with being dependent on other people?! This reminds me of Charles Hazelwood talking about the importance of trust in an orchestra: he said in an orchestra you all depend on one another. And, in the Paraorchestra, I can imagine how dependent the conductor is on visually impaired musicians to play their part well, to come in at the right time, given that they cannot see the conductor. I was wondering whether you could contribute something to the discussion on dependence and independence drawing on your experience of working with an orchestra.

LC: Independence is really interesting because, when you play in an ensemble, a lot of it is about when to react and when not to react. It’s the case on Kraftwerk:Re-werk as well: there are moments when you absolutely have to lock into that groove. You might hear a rhythm in one part of the orchestra, and you have to trust that they are gonna stay the same and that you are gonna lock into that rhythm, and that all will be well. You don’t want the other person to start going faster or slower. So there’s trust and listening going on. But if you over-listen sometimes, you forget to fulfil your own obligation to create the overall effect. If you were over-listening to the person doing the opposite kind of rhythm, then you would be immediately off track, because you’d be letting the other person infect your rhythm. You don’t wanna play the same rhythm as them, but you wanna play your own part, playing your own part accurately is very important. You have to trust that other people are playing their part accurately as well. And then the overall effect of that at the front will be all very good.

British Paraorchestra Birmingham Symphony Hall concert FEB 18th 2017 (23)PARA ORCHESTRA 3-2

Musicians from the British Paraorchestra and from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Symphony Hall, 18th February 2017 (Credit: Paul Blakemore)

There’s another thing I was quite interested in, regarding the idea of independence you were talking about. There’ve been a couple of times when visually impaired musicians asked for assistance on the rail network. The assistance was there in London, but when they got to their destination there was no one there to meet them. That was the most galling thing of all, beyond maddening, and I speak as someone who can get by without assistance. Unlike people who can move around freely, they don’t just have the option to walk down the platform and walk down the stairs. They are in the middle of a train station. They don’t know what hazards are around, or how close to the end of the platform they are. They’ve got their cane, of course, but it’s an incredibly alarming, upsetting and sometimes distressing situation to find yourself in. The last time this happened, the person concerned managed to eventually find a guard who sort of came up with some excuse as for why the assistance wasn’t there. In terms of independence, that can be: one person has not played the role in the chain, and the whole thing falls down.

AD: Like a violin not coming in…

LC: Exactly: if you have agreed to do a rehearsal and you don’t turn up, then it is obviously a crime.

AD: If you are in an orchestra and you don’t play your line well, I suppose there is a conductor to correct you. If we compare the two situations, we can say that there was no conductor at the train station to hold that assistant to account.

LC: The conductor analogy is interesting because, again, we could flip it the other way round. Charles or any other conductor is also a human being, and all human beings are susceptible to failure. The worst conductors and the ones that I despise the most are the ones that somehow think that they are not the same as the rest of us, that they do have some kind of divine knowledge. So they walk into a room, expand their chest a little bit, stick their elbows out and go ‘I’m in the room, everyone, this is the way we should do it, I should lead you, there is no way I can make a mistake, there is no way I can learn anything from you’. Charles is the most brilliant example of someone who will absolutely listen back, and give back, and receive back.

AD: I was listening to a BBC podcast about politics. They drew a comparison between human politics and hierarchies among chimpanzees. The widespread, though not entirely correct, idea people have of alpha male chimpanzees (strong, bossy) reminds me very much of the egotistical conductors you describe…

Paraorchestra 2

Paraorchestra musicians Guy Llewellyn (horn player) and Chris Melling (trumpet player) during a performance of Terry Riley’s In C at the Colston Hall in Bristol, 2016 (Credit: Paul Blakemore)

LC: Ahahah! Yes! Classical alpha males. It is the alpha male thing, men rule the world. It must be part of why it has taken so bloody long for the female conductors to come more to the fore. There are so many things in classical music that lag behind any other thing. Just go to any orchestral concert in the country and see how many black and minority ethnic musicians there are in the orchestra: barely any! Women are much better represented now, but it has taken fifty years. Crazy! That’s why I am always talking more about fundamentally rethinking what an orchestra just can be. The Paraorchestra and the Army of Generals, because of how they have to adapt to different musicians from different backgrounds, create a new opportunity to reset the mainstream. And almost convince traditional orchestras that there is an opportunity for them here if they are able to change the whole sense of their world. We want to be very hopeful about it.

See Lloyd talk about the composition in greater detail, below.


Durkheim E. (1984[1893]) The Division of Labour in Society. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Transl. by W. D. Halls.

Talking Shit

By Rebecca Marshall • MSc Medical Anthropology

Rebecca Article - Image - 15.01.18

This blog entry is a review of the UCL Medical Anthropology Evening Seminar entitled ‘Three Achievements of Excrement: Disgust, humour and emphasis’ given by Professor of Anthropology, Sjaak van der Geest (University of Amsterdam), Thursday 12th October 2017, Darryl Forde Seminar Room

If one were to argue that faeces (yes, that’s poo to you and me) is a powerful tool of disgust, humour and rhetoric – you’d be sure to reply that they were talking shit. Correct?

Yet during Professor Sjaak van der Geest’s engaging talk – ‘Three Achievements of excrement: disgust, humour and emphasis’ – he waded through an anthropological journey knee deep in dirt and shit, persuading his audience otherwise.

Starting with a colourful exploration of Mary Douglas’s concept of “matter out of place”, Van der Geest argued excrement has a cultural meaning. When thinking about what defines excrement, we need to view it in its social place, its context. He indulged us in a thought experiment. You and I are storing poo in our colon right now and we will flush it down a toilet later. Yet this doesn’t stop us living our day to day lives, we are not continually disgusted by this process or thought. It’s not “out of place”. But then put yourself in the shoes of a patient who has undergone a colostomy and has a stoma bag to contend with. Their internal becomes external. (During my Colorectal Surgical rotation as a medical student, I observed this scenario daily.) This was a patient’s own faeces transported “out of place” by a technical shift. Then consider the profound stigma associated with this change and the impact this has on a person’s relationship with their environment, their peers and their own identity. The anthropological conceptualisation of “faeces out of place” starts to take shape. The meaning of excrement becomes constructed by its place, where it is in time and space.

Yet this is not a one-way street. Whilst the meaning of excrement is formed by context, poo itself can be utilised as a reaction to socio-cultural and historical contexts. Its very stuff, its materiality and associated disgusting properties, can be transformed into a rhetorical device. It is no coincidence that the word “revolt” signifies both the act of protest and the feeling of being disgusted. Van der Geest recounted striking examples where poo, the unlikeliest of accomplices, has been transformed into a political weapon. Take the example of the 1980 “dirty protest” in Maze Prison, Northern Ireland, in which IRA prisoners smeared excrement over their cell walls. This foreshadowed the later (and infamous) 1981 hunger strike and the amplification of violent tensions in this region. More recently, the play on words “poopootov cocktail” in Caracas, Venezuela has been utilised as a protest against President Maduro’s government and a symbol of the struggle for democracy. As one protester exclaimed “they have tear gas, we have excrement.”

Tit (or more aptly shit) for tat.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, Van der Geest illustrated the comedic potential of poo. Drawing on the work of Douglas, whose essays on Humour describe joking as a “play upon form” and a kind of “ritual pollution”. Poo has the power to subvert and to highlight “alter-realities”. Reflected in works of Freudian thought, too, in the sense that jokes can bring together seemingly incongruous themes in order to highlight hidden patterns in society.
Sjaak recounted examples of proverbs and wit from around the globe. His vast research in Ghana sparked a fascination with faeces; encountering proverbs such as “efi aka no” (literally, “dirt has stuck to him”), which signifies someone who has committed a moral sin. In Malawi, the proverb “eating in the toilet” signifies a “greedy person” and the phrase “life is like a chicken coop ladder” is a popular (and admittedly amusing) allegory one can hear echoed around communities.

Douglas herself drew on Western anthropological studies of the Dogon tribe in Africa, to show how humour (like dirt) is culturally defined and context specific (cf. 1968). Ethnographers viewed the exchanges of the Dogon tribe describing them as “gross insults”, yet to the local discourse – this was merely a mechanism of joviality and wit.
So, just as poo can shock and disgust, “toilet humour” and rhetorical shit is also a means of playing with dirty and taboo subjects to provoke a response.
And the audience’s response to the entertaining seminar ‘Three Achievements of Excrement: Disgust, humour and emphasis’?
A definite hit.

Yet his fourth achievement – namely, putting us off our food just before dinner time – may not have gone down so well.


Van Der Geest, Sjaak (1998) Akan Shit: Getting rid of dirt in Ghana. Anthropology Today 14(3):8-12.

Douglas, Mary (1966) Purity and Danger. London: Routledge.

Douglas, Mary (1968) The Social Control of Cognition: Some factors in joke perception. Man (N.S.) 3(3):361-376.

The Guardian (2017) ‘They Have Gas; We Have Excrement’: Venezuela protests take a dirty turn. Wednesday, 10th May 2017. Accessed online: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/09/venezuela-protest-poo-poo-tov-cocktail-nicolas-maduro


Anthropology Has Lost Its A-Level, but Not Its Students

With the New Year fast approaching, it seems appropriate for us to reflect upon the past but also to look towards the future. Today, we are posting an essay written by sixth form student Cherise Jarret, who is special not only for her writing talent but also because she will be amongst the last students in the country to sit an Anthropology A-Level alongside their other exams in the summer of 2018. Many dedicated individuals— most momentously within the RAI – committed four years of precious time and resources to launch this A-Level but sadly, just as it was gaining credence and popularity amongst students, it was axed within the series of cuts made by ‘the government’s reform of A-Levels’ in 2015. In the wake of this event, and as a precursor to Anthropolitan’s spring video series on this topic, we hope this article will inspire readers and stimulate discussion into whether this was a justified move

Editorial Note (Shosha Adie)

Cherise Jarret on the topic ‘Why is Anthropology Important to Me?’


Figure 1: Cherise’s Anthropology ft. their teacher Tomislav Maric , who co-wrote the A-Level textbook for their course. Photo credits: James O’Donoghue

As I walked into the sixth form room as a shy Year 11, rocking thick rimmed glasses and a jumper two sizes too big, I came across a rather tall man standing next to an array of photos from different cultures with the bold heading: Anthropology. With my inner child nudging and prodding at my gut, I made my move to the stand, rather timidly, in what was later to be one of the best decisions I have made. ‘Anthropology is a beautiful, absolutely beautiful subject!’ he said, with a grin wider than his build.

That was me two years ago, and now I can honestly agree and say that Anthropology is a beautiful, culturally stimulating subject that engrosses you into learning about other people’s stories, which we all have. Despite me still rocking the glasses and bed hair look, I feel as though I have crawled more out of my hobbit hole and become more confident within myself to pierce through my protective bubble and interact with people to enrich my curiosity about other ways of life, from past to present.  Anthropology to me is one of those subjects which makes you stop in your tracks and wonder about questions such as, “What makes us human?”, “What other systems of thought are there?”, “How can fragments of objects tell the stories of cultures?” and so forth, allowing your imaginative, inner Curious George to be manifested once more.

However, us A-Level Anthropology students are unfortunately the last to board this train, since as of 2018 it will be axed off our examination board. I was surprised and utterly speechless, as I suppose most people are to this outcome, as Anthropology pinpoints on important topics such as discrimination, racism and prejudiced views which we need to take drastic actions on to allow equality in today’s world. Anthropology allows you to be a more open-minded person and quench your thirst to explore the horizons, find out what is happening in our world, stop exploitation and to provide a voice for people. I always believed that Anthropology should be taught for everyone of all ages, as you are able to walk in another person’s shoes and become less judgemental, as there is much more to a person than what is merely perceived on the surface.

My journey into Anthropology will always continue, as I’d rather be a thinker than a sheep.

Nobody Cares About Anthropology


She won’t like stories
About how you became less of a man
About how you only take photos on 35mm film
About how you found yourself and they found you
About ghosts and your parents and what it means to remember

Stories of tribes and archipelagos and you and them
Stories of theories
Of paeons wound tightly around your thumb
Of diesel engines and dust in your boots
Of days where you didn’t wash and sat with your thesaurus
Trying to find new words for the past
Gone by, over and done

Fabian Broeker • MSc Digital Anthropology

Photograph by Edwin Rosskam


Reflections on Fieldwork: A Recollection of My K-pop Experience

By Elaine Wong • BSc Anthropology


Post-it notes containing messages of affection to contestants in an idol competition left on the wall by K-pop fans in an underground train station in Seoul

Following my last article on the inspiration for my undergraduate dissertation, I would now like to present an updated account of my research after completing two months of fieldwork in South Korea. Shifting from my previous emphasis on infrastructures, I now turn to a new title: “How to produce a Pop Idol: the co-shaping of the K-pop body”, which focuses on the body. In other words, my project aims to find out how the bodies of K-pop (South Korean pop music) idols, their producers, and their fans shape each other through processes such as structured training, marketing strategies and fan activity.

July: Introduction to South Korean culture

Over the first month, I attended a summer program at Sogang University in Seoul to learn the Korean language and take a module on Korean culture. Although classroom-based learning does not count as fieldwork, I gained valuable insight into the historical context of South Korean politics and performing arts culture. Buzzwords such as ‘visuality’ and ‘aurality’ that are found in traditional Korean performance studies resonated with my investigation into K-pop. At the end of the program, there was a graduation ceremony where students performed various traditional and contemporary Korean performances that we learnt in the course. Whilst the traditional performances – pansori (판소리) and sogo drum dance (소고춤) – were course assignments, a few of us students took initiative to do a K-pop dance cover – we named our group ‘Sogang K-Bangerz’. Many credits to Noelle, my dancer classmate, for taking on the role of choreography director. Rehearsals involved learning the general dance moves of the songs and familiarising ourselves with our own parts. Practice took place in a large study room on campus and started at 9pm every other night, sometimes ending as late as 1:30am. Those of us who lived off-campus always bought ice-cream on the way back home (I typically ordered a large Americano on the way to class the next day every morning). While I was already aware of K-pop’s worldwide popularity, it felt somewhat surreal to actually meet fans from countries other than my own; China, Russia, Sweden, and the US, just to name a few.

IMG_6909 (1)

Sogang K-Bangerz rehearsing at night

August: Training as an idol and an anthropologist

After the summer program, I entered the entertainment company where I would spend the next month collecting most of my fieldwork data training as K-pop idol. Despite being reunited with some of the staff who recognised me from the previous year, it still felt alien as a researcher rather than a tourist this time. Firstly, being more spatially aware, I noticed things that I failed to before. For instance, the lack of windows in the practice rooms that warped my sense of time during training. Secondly, the need to maintain a reflexive mind-set (not just in training but in informal conversations or any potential source of data as well). This also applied to the interviews, especially with the trainees. It was obvious that most of their answers were prepared ahead of time, which interestingly shows how communication is highly managed in the company. I was given a name card attached to a lanyard hung around my neck, which I often removed during my training for practical reasons. However, I was told I had to wear it when going to the loo to avoid being suspected as a crazy-fan intruder (사생팬). Thirdly, I had a new dance trainer whose teaching methods were novel to me. She sat me down in the middle of a lesson, took a piece of scrap paper out and started drawing lines and numbers. Teaching me how to count beats 1 to 4, she explained, “you need to keep the audience guessing. Make them wonder what’s coming next. It’s not about being late for the beat though. Move your body at the end of 1, not after 1.” Thankful for my decent sense of musicality, I somewhat understood what she meant. Still, it was excruciatingly difficult adjusting my body to move accordingly by microseconds.


Diagram drawn by my dance trainer on when to move within a beat

As the weeks went by, I became more self-conscious of my position as a researcher within the company. I stood out more than I expected (having overheard a lot of staff gossip), but this attitude towards me stemmed more from curiosity than hostility. The company employees were very keen in giving me many opportunities to get to know about their daily lives. Alas, every day was different and fast-paced. From getting food poisoning after a corporate dinner to drunkenly befriending the CEO’s right-hand man, language and cultural barriers were not a problem in bonding with the staff.


Vitamin supplements taken in my 3rd week of training

Overall, my fieldwork in South Korea over the summer has raised a lot of interesting questions for my research. Linking to anthropological themes (e.g. phenomenology and technologies of enchantment); relationships between K-pop idols, producers and fans seem to be constantly co-produced through conceptual and performative activities. At the same time, the investigation teases out greater implications in the much wider context of making music ‘tangible’ for the training performer and the perceiving audience.