Wrestling With the Angels: Synthesizing Assemblage Theory and Conjunctural Analysis In Examining the Korean Sport Context

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Given the increase of ambiguities and uncertainties in contemporary society in general—and in sport and physical culture in particular—it is essential to explore diversified elements simultaneously rather than fixate on only a single factor (Anderson, 2014; Horton, 2020; Law et al., 2014; Ryan, 2021). Accordingly, this thesis introduces Manuel DeLanda’s (2006a, 2006b, 2011, 2016) “Deleuzian-inspired” (Andrews, 2021b, p. 72) assemblage theory as a novel approach to understanding our complex society and its continuous transformations as “assemblages of assemblages” (DeLanda, 2016, p. 3). More importantly, just as DeLanda (2006, 2011, 2016) reorganized Deleuze’s notions when he suggested his own unique assemblage theory, I reconceptualize DeLanda’s assemblage theory by adopting certain vital concepts within conjunctural cultural studies, including the notions of conjuncture and articulation, to propose my own conjunctural analysis-based assemblage theory. Additionally, on a basis of my own version of assemblage theory, I then analyze three representative conjunctures that can be found within Korean history—a longstanding period of totalitarian regimes, the national economic crisis, and contemporary Korean society—in order to discern both dominant and overlooked assemblages within them as well as their endless mutations. Considering the conspicuous paucity of theoretical and conceptual discussions concerning an assemblage and assemblage theory despite the growing academic attention paid to these concepts (Dewsbury, 2011; Savage, 2020), my clarification and reinterpretation of DeLanda’s (2006, 2011, 2016) assemblage theory will make another meaningful contribution to the advancement of its theoretical and conceptual clarification. Analyzing three particular conjunctures within Korean history using assemblage theory will also ascertain the methodological and empirical potential of the concept by illuminating certain “more-than-human aspects of the socio-material world” (Müller & Schurr, 2016, p. 217) without adhering to anthropocentrism, thereby effectively bridging the scholarly gap that exists in the field of sport and physical culture, especially between the United States and South Korea (Andrews, 2019; Coakley, 2021; Tian & Wise, 2020). Ultimately, the critical engagement with and extension of DeLanda’s (2006, 2011, 2016) assemblage theory will provide a valuable opportunity to strengthen the architecture of the complex contextual relations that can critically delineate how society has been formed and how it has come into being by offering a fundamental addendum to the contextual cultural studies approach while also investigating the structure and function of contemporary sport as multifaceted assemblages (Andrews, 2019; King, 2005).