What Is A Reedie, Anyway?

Hoyoung “Jodie” Moon

Anthropology

September 1, 2014

Hometown: Seoul, Korea

Adviser: Prof. Courtney Handman [anthropology 2009-]

Thesis: “‘Here, One More Ingyŏ’: Being a Surplus Human in Contemporary South Korea”

What it’s about: Certain young South Koreans have internalized neoliberal notions of productivity and personhood and call themselves useless, failed humans who are mainly just interested in having fun.

What it’s really about: Hesitation as work and desire for recognition of one’s present incoherent presence. 

Who I was when I got to Reed: I had a lot of self-doubt stemming from seeing myself through the imagined eyes of others. After years of hopping from school to school, I was hungry to finally find a place where I belonged.

Influential professor: Prof. Paul Silverstein [anthropology 2000–] taught me there are always multiple realities lived and operating at once. 

Favorite spot: I’ve overheard some of the best conversations working behind the circulation desk at the library. The Reed librarians really take care of us and are not recognized enough for that.

Cool stuff: I helped build two new student publications, Homer’s Roamers, a magazine that focuses on Reed students' experiences abroad, and Rogue, a monthly creative arts zine. I tutored for intro anthropology, was twice an InterConnect Mentor, and participated in LASER (Lane After School Education with Reed). 

How Reed changed me: It is comfortable to think that I am exceptional and thus my voice can be valued, but I learned that I am not exceptional in any sense. Despite and because of that my voice is valuable.

Financial aid: The ivory tower is not separate from the rest of the world. It would have been impossible for me to attend Reed without the generous financial aid I received. At every crisis I had, Reed came through, and I am grateful to be able to graduate from this school.

What I would tell prospies: My peers’ ability to respectfully engage and confront each other, inside and outside the classroom, was inspiring. Really paying attention to what the other person is saying can be the difference of a second or two, but means you don’t jump to a conclusion about what you think the other person is saying.

What’s next: Doing some translating (literally and metaphorically) in Korea. 

Thesis expanded: Young Koreans began calling themselves “surplus humans” after a movie clip showing a father chastising his son went viral. Seething about his son's bad grades, the father tells him if he doesn’t go to college, he’ll be unable to find a job and become “a surplus human.” Once simply a self-deprecating name for an unemployed person, the term is now also used to claim membership to a numerical majority in a neoliberal, capitalist society. At a personal level, neoliberalism works to make you responsible for your own development as a marketable subject. All your time should be spent in a way that is deemed productive. When my friends and I have leisure time, we say, “I’m being ingyŏ right now,” meaning spending time in a nonproductive or wasteful way. At the same time, my generation is using “surplus human” as a serious way of saying, “We are losers in this society, where wealth and opportunity only goes to an elite minority. But, at least we are average in our loser-dom, so we are going to play."