Postmemory / 한 (HAN)

Sometimes research is a lifeline, a beautiful kaleidoscope that unveils a myriad horizon. At other times, it is the haunted umbilical cord that pulls at your center. Such pain.

I’m researching into cultural trauma. It is “funny” to read into something that feels so intimate to me. The traumas of war, displacement, domestic abuse,”the nation,” racial logics — these have left black fingerprints all over my family’s portraits. It ate my marriage. And still I sing! I am known for my sunny disposition!

I think about this term, “postmemory.” The psychological multi-generational fallout of trauma. A cultural violence, distilled into our bodies. KOЯEANs know it so well. We call it 한. I know HAN by a sort of native birthright, I suppose. It courses through me. It is not all of me, but it is mine. HAN. A deep sorrow, anguish, bitterness. Where are its roots? A heartrending sound, it pierces. It has an elemental depth. It hurts, it is familiar. Is this how continents are born? This beautiful folk singer, 김영임, has it coursing through her voice.

I’ve described it a bit previously in my review of Kim Hye-Soon’s poetry. I’ve written to and from it in so many places.

HAN is not just a feeling or a sound. It is also a gesture, a feeling inside your body. I have been working to release it through movements. I hesitate to call it dance. I meditate. I become filled with a mood. This mood moves me. I give into it.

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Can I climb this thorny rope that reaches from my guts, out of my throat, and into the sky? Can I climb this thorny rope into a new element, a new figure, a new light? Without ambition. Without hope. How may I climb.

Tell me the story / Of all of these things. / Beginning wherever you wish, tell even us.

1 comment
  1. malekakay said:

    I’ve always been interested in the study of “mana”- a word for the force or energy or spirit, derived from your ancestors, found in Maori, Samoan, Hawaiian, and other Pacific island cultures. Sometimes it is said to be what what you are trying to reach for when dancing the haka, or other pacific indigenous dances.

    I love your study of the concept of han- thanks for sharing.

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