March 22: Presentation by Prof. Joshua Pilzer, Hearts of Pine: Songs in the Lives of Three Korean Survivors of the Japanese “Comfort Women”

We are excited to announce our upcoming academic seminar with Professor Joshua Pilzer, assistant professor of ethnomusicology at U of T.  It will take place on March 22nd from 2-4pm in the South Dining Room of Hart House. He will be discussing his recent book entitled Hearts of Pine: Song in the Lives of Korean Survivors of the Japanese “Comfort Women”. All are welcome to attend!


During the long era of public secrecy about Japanese military sexual slavery, Korean survivors made use of veiled expressive forms such as song to reckon with their experiences and forge social selves without exposing their already opaquely public secrets. In the era of the “comfort women grandmothers” protest movement, which began in the early 1990s, the women became star witnesses and super-symbols of South Korea’s colonial victimization at the hands of Japan; and the new normative constraints of this role compelled the women to continue to express taboo sentiments and continue the work of self-making behind the veils of song, often in the most public of places. The women’s songs are thus simultaneously records of traumatic experiences; transcripts of struggles to overcome traumatic memory and achieve different kinds of cultural membership; performances of traumatic experience for an expectant public; and works of art that stretch beyond the horizons of traumatic experience and even those of Korean cultural identity. In this presentation the author introduces his ten-year project with survivors, and attempts to model a humanistic ethnomusicology, based on people and their music rather than on music and its people.

Speaker Biography

Joshua D. Pilzer (PhD University of Chicago 2006) is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at U of T, specializing in Korean and Japanese music. His current research concerns the place of music in the texture of post-colonial Korean life, music’s social utility and social poetics, and music as alternative history. He is interested in particular in the relationships between music, survival, traumatic experience, marginalization, socialization, public culture, and identity. He is the author of Hearts of Pine (Oxford University Press, 2012). Pilzer has published articles in Ethnomusicology, Dongyang Umak Yeonggu, and The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), and has forthcoming articles in The Oxford Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology and Music and War. He is currently conducting fieldwork for his next book project, an ethnography of music and song among Korean victims of the atomic bombing of Japan and their children in Hapcheon, “Korea’s Hiroshima”.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *