This article examines the collective ritual known as sahoejang (public funeral) in order to trace the shifting concept of what was understood as society during the colonial period (1910-1945). Major sources of information include original newspaper articles and discursive materials on the funerals of Yu Gil-jun (1914), Kim Yun-sik (1922), Yi Sang-jae (1927), and Yi Seung-hun (1930). Thirteen other sahoejang that took place in various local communities between late 1920s and early 1940s are also briefly examined. In examining sahoejang, in terms of both their practice and discourse, I analyze the trajectory of fluid and changing imaginaries and concepts on social boundaries, about who has social membership, who has the right to represent the membership thus formed, and what is considered socially valuable. I argue first that the notion of society during the colonial period stimulated imaginations and expectations about collective subjectivity of the colonized, and second that collective subjectivity was expressed through the formation of voluntary organizations and activities, which led to social solidarity, rallying of public opinions and leveling of traditionally hierarchical authorities.
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