Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jane Sugarman


Peter Manuel

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Music


drumming, femininity and masculinity, gender, Korean music


Korean drumming, one of the most popular musical practices in South Korea, currently exists in a state of contradiction as drumming, historically performed by men, is increasingly practiced by women. Women drummers who enter this male-dominated realm confront the "masculinization" of the practice, which is naturalized and normalized through the field's discourse and performance. At the same time, they seek a "femininity" that may help them to survive in the field. To examine these gendered conceptions and practices, I draw on the ways in which contemporary Korean traditional drum performers, predominantly professional female drummers, conceptualize, experience, perform, reinforce, and/or resist issues of gender in the field.

My study presupposes that musical practices embody the underlying structures--shared meanings, values, and ideologies--that characterize a society, and that individuals both reinforce and challenge those structures through those practices. Based on the hypothesis that the supposed "masculinity" and "femininity" in drumming are constructed within the historical context of Confucianism, nationalism, and commercialization (in particular via mass media), I approach Korean drumming as a site in which gender conceptions are internalized, idealized, embodied, contested, or challenged by performers. To assess the state of women in Korean drumming, I pose the following questions: What kind of sociocultural environment encourages women's involvement in Korean drumming? How has drumming been historically constructed as male, and to what extent does this naturalize men as drummers and exclude women? Taking into consideration that both masculinity and femininity are influenced by such historical structures, how do women drummers negotiate between expressing the "masculinity" central to drumming culture and performing qualities typically categorized as "feminine"? In answering these questions within the discussion of "masculinity" and "femininity," women's bodies emerge as the focus.

My research is predominantly based on interactions with professional drummers, through interviews and participant-observation. These drummers include primarily women but also men, and are involved in a variety of drumming styles including pungmul (percussion ensemble practice), samulnori (a modernized version of pungmul), and contemporary genres, as well as the drumming accompaniment in such genres as pansori (a theatrical play of story-telling and singing) and shaman rituals. Through assessing and analyzing the discourse and experiences contained within this material, my exploration of Korean drumming, a historically male musical domain increasingly populated by women, may shed light on similar processes both in historical male realms of other regions and in capitalist societies emphasizing "femininity" within consumer culture.