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Social-ecological memory in an autobiographical novel: ecoliteracy, place attachment, and identity related to the Korean traditional village landscape

GoWoon Kim, Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, Seoul National University
Rahul Teku Vaswani, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand
Dowon Lee, Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University


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Our study discusses how literature, in particular an autobiographical novel, can be approached as a valuable reservoir of social-ecological memory (SEM). Through our analysis of acclaimed Korean writer Park Wan-suh’s autobiographical novel Who Ate Up All the Shinga?, we discuss how an individual (the author) manifests ecoliteracy, place attachment, and identity in relation to Korea’s traditional village landscape that can serve as a suitable setting for understanding Korea’s local social-ecological contexts. We find a rich account of knowledge and practices related to living and ecological components, resource and landscape management systems, social institutions, and worldviews. The author’s descriptions of her native village landscape show the role of village resource and landscape management practices in enhancing local biodiversity and developing ecoliteracy in relation to indigenous ecosystem-like concepts. In addition, several social capitals are mentioned as key to sustaining the village community. The author’s knowledge of local plants is the result of her childhood experiences in nature, and her place attachment is tightly linked with her worldview that is cultivated through intricate human-nature relationships within the Korean traditional village landscape. Furthermore, the novel contributes to comprehending resilience thinking by providing a narrative of social changes and interactions between humans and nature. Thus, SEM retained in literature can facilitate a meaningful understanding of social-ecological contexts in a given social-ecological system. Our study therefore suggests new functions of autobiographical memory in literary work for delivering SEM, and informs the study of SEM across the fields of humanities, social sciences, and natural resources management.

Key words

autobiographical memory; ecoliteracy; Korea’s traditional village landscape; literature; place attachment; social-ecological memory; spatial identity; traditional ecological knowledge

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087