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David J. Kim

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

My research in cultural anthropology focuses on magic and divination in contemporary South Korea, ranging from shamans, horoscopic fortunetellers, and the growing diversity in between.

My current book project, Divining Capital: Spectral Returns and the Commodification of Fate in South Korea, features sites such as fortunetelling cafes, shamanic shrines, and street diviners. While firmly situated in the sensuousness of everyday life, it also attempts to unveil ghostly traces of secrets and hidden desires that surface on the diviner’s table. Under the backdrop of increased economic liberalization, the project also examines the bipolar urge of patrons to simultaneously embrace, yet protect against risk. My research though grounded in South Korea, speaks to a growing body of anthropological work on economies of ritual, leisure, and gaming, as they relate to market forces, globalization, and neoliberalism.

I originally came to anthropology with a background in both theatre and performance studies. It is exciting for me to draw on these fields, especially in relation to the works of Bertolt Brecht and his ideas on shock and montage, and how they might inform anthropology in both theory and practice. I enjoy teaching topics such as magic, ritual, and religion—areas that have had long standing traditions in anthropology—in theoretically challenging and creative ways, while still engaging with our discipline’s conceptual foundations.

More About Me

David J. Kim received his doctorate in sociocultural anthropology from Columbia University in 2009. He also holds an MA in performance studies from NYU and a BA in theater and dance from Trinity College in Connecticut.

Research Interests

Capitalism and everyday life, magic, religion, Marxism, critical and poststructural theory, affect, psychoanalysis, performance studies, queer theory, technology and new media, anthropology of the senses.

Representative Courses

Magic Witchcraft and Modernity
Anthropology of Religion
Myth Ritual and Performance
Media Technology and Perception


2015. “Visions and Stones: Spirit Matters and the Charm of Small Things in South Korean Shamanic Rock Divination,” Anthropology and Humanism Vol. 40 (1)

2013. Critical Mediations: Haewŏn Chinhon Kut, a Shamanic Ritual for Korean ‘Comfort Women,’” Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique Vol. 21 No. 3