Becoming a "Legitimate" Ancestor: A Sociocultural Understanding of a Sonless Jamnyeo's Life Story


  • Gui-Young Hong Sumter Children and Families Study



sociocultural embeddedness, story­telling and re-telling, collective cultural ideals, personal cultures, joint construction, positioning, personal transformation


The retrospective reflections of a sixty two year old sonless widow jamnyeo (traditional career ocean diving woman on Jeju Island, South Korea) on her experiences as a marginal figure in her late husband's family are examined from sociocultural perspectives. This paper presents sociocultural interpretative analyses of the jamnyeo's life events and her experiences lived in the island's historical and sociocultural contexts. Analyses focus on three theoretical notions: sociocultural embeddedness, continuity and discontinuity between collective and personal cultures, and joint constructions. The jamnyeo's storytelling and life story, from the perspective of sociocultural theory, reveals active, goal-oriented attempts to transform her marginal social position into a culturally virtuous one of "legitimate" ancestor. On an individual plane, the jamnyeo subjectively transformed sociocultural voices demanding virtuous womanhood into mediational tools catalyzing and facilitating her life-long struggle to transform her social position from the margins to the center of her husband's family. On a sociocultural plane, her story reveals the dualistic nature of sociocultural voices both as forces; guiding, influencing, and structuring the ways individuals construct and reconstruct their lives; and as products which active social agents construct and transform. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0403198


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Author Biography

Gui-Young Hong, Sumter Children and Families Study

Gui-Young HONG is Director of the Sumter Children and Families Study. Her research interests include systemic approaches to understanding marginalized people's work and lives in historical and sociocultural contexts. She is particularly interested in advancing sociocultural and ethnographic methodologies to explore interplays between collective and personal cultures.




How to Cite

Hong, G.-Y. (2004). Becoming a "Legitimate" Ancestor: A Sociocultural Understanding of a Sonless Jamnyeo’s Life Story. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 5(3).