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Accepted Paper:

Ride a White Horse: Horses, Charismatic Landscapes and the Theatric Politics of North Korea  
Robert Winstanley-Chesters (Bath Spa University)

Paper short abstract:

Writing on North Korea is generally focused on anthropogenic concerns, In contrast this paper looks below the saddle of conventional authority to the equine below and considers the roles and lives of horses in North Korea, its history and political culture.

Paper long abstract:

North Korean anthropologies, histories, geographies and other writings are generally focused on anthropogenic concerns, primarily focused on practices of leadership and autocracy, or the negative implications of the nation’s political form. In contrast this paper looks below the saddle of conventional authority to the horse below. Holding in mind the work of animal geographers and researchers of more than human relations, as well as Jane Bennett and others work on vibrant matters and new materialist approaches to global webs of life, as well as the anthropologies of Heonik Kwon and Byung-ho Chung, this paper considers the roles and lives of horses in North Korea and North Korean history. Building on previous writing by the author on non-human agency in North Korea, the paper frames horses as actors and participants in the charismatic and theatric political spaces of the nation historically and in present. From the white horse ridden by Kim Il Sung on his arrival in Pyongyang in 1947, the “hero horses” gifted by the Mongolian People’s Republic during the Korean War, to the white stallion and companions ridden up Mount Paektu by Kim Jong Un, his sister Kim Yo Jong and other senior leadership of the Korean Workers Party in 2019, equines appear frequently in the cultural, ideological and historical narratology of North Korea, echoing deeper historical cultural connections between horse and human in Korean history. The paper considers the potential lives of such horses, and their intersections and engagements with the energies and projections of Pyongyang’s politics.

Panel Speak19
Saddled with responsibility? Understanding agency and power in horse–human relations
  Session 1 Thursday 1 April, 2021, -