Ishmael and Ahab both have MA degrees in Korea Studies. This blog is a way for them to continue to not only engage with popular culture but also to deconstruct and problematize that same popular culture (institutions, individual actors, etc.). Join them in their quests to slay the academic white whale and achieve some modicum of legitimacy in an institution that just won’t seem to take them seriously, no matter how loudly they scream or how many sources they cite.

Like Captain Ahab, caught on the line of his own harpoon and ultimately drowned by the white whale, Ishmael and Ahab are being dragged under the waves by their own unfinishable project that attempts to both legitimize media and analysis of it to those who dismiss it out of hand as derivative or meaningless, and also to sufficiently problematize the processes that fuel the industry — processes, it should be noted, that are rapidly reshaping the world in which we live and the ways in which we engage with media, cultures, and each other. This blog seeks to engage, analyze, and ultimately start an academic discourse about pop culture and its effects and processes, focusing primarily on East Asia. It will not only recklessly strew its articles with gloriously big words, but also a little theory. In fact, theory is to this blog what chowder was to Melville.

It is not necessary, by any means, to have an advanced education to follow this blog; everyone is welcome. However, this is not a forum for simple swooning. We welcome — in fact, desire — critical engagement.

Ishmael and Ahab have very different experiences with pop culture. A lifelong hopeless fangirl, Ahab has been a participant observer for many years. Ishmael saw her Japanese students changing their perceptions of Korea through pop culture which ultimately led her to join the UW crew. Surprisingly, it has been Ishmael who lodged her harpoon firmly in this project, while Ahab sensibly pursues other academic focii.

Ishmael: Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me in Asia, I thought I would enter grad school and see the West Coast of the United States. It is a way I have of driving off responsibility and regulating my life. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffee houses, and bringing up the rear of every bar crawl in which I partake; and especially whenever my procrastination gets such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get back to Asia as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to a plane.

Like her literary namesake, she derives her importance from her function as a narrator, and is thus often overlooked, which suits her just fine for ethnographic research. Ishmael recently graduated from the University of Washington, with a focus in nation branding strategies through popular culture products. Though as fascinated by the whale as Ahab, Ishmael is a green hand at whaling. A drifter for many years, she was untried with analysis of mainstream popular culture until joining the UW crew.

Ahab: She’s a queer girl, Captain Ahab — so some think — but a good one. Oh, thou’lt like her well enough; no fear, no fear. She’s a grand, ungodly, god-like woman, Captain Ahab; doesn’t speak much; but, when she does speak, then you may well listen. Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab’s above the common; Ahab’s been in colleges, as well as ‘mong the fans; been used to deeper wonders than concerts; fixed her fiery lance in mightier, stranger foes than academia. Her lance! aye, the keenest and the surest that out of all our isle! Oh! she ain’t Foucault; no, and she ain’t Lefebvre; SHE’S AHAB, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!

Ahab has spent her life adrift in various fandoms, the last ten years of which have been fueled not by the rage and hate of her namesake but rather of love (and particularly, a love of sparkles and back beats). Like her literary namesake, she is “a brilliant personification of the very essence of fanaticism” and happily drags along anyone half-willing to come with on her obsessive journeys across the globe. When not working in engagement with an unnamed East Asian nation, Ahab is distracting herself using pop culture and then overanalyzing it.

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