Theater as a Site of Radical Pedagogy


Looking at Theater of the Oppressed and madang-guk

The Korean American coordinators (including myself) hope to develop the collective into a facilitator or a medium that aims to decode the lost memory fragments of a national past and re-encode new narratives for empowering Korean Americans to act against the continued colonial violence perpetuated by the United States. However, in order for that to happen, participants constituting the collective, through radical processes of story sharing, should feel encouraged to act, organize their memories into collective consciousness, and mobilize toward change. Augusto Boal saw the theater to be a site of pedagogy in which to rehearse for “real action” and critically discuss the tactics for social transformation or upheaval against the forces of an oppressive political system. In the words of Boal, “In this case, perhaps the theater is not revolutionary in itself, but it is surely a rehearsal for the revolution. The liberated spectator, as a whole person, launches into action” (Boal 122).

Similarly in South Korea, activists, artists, workers, and farmers needed ways to combat the “official” national narrative of South Korea, which justified the nation’s assimilation into the world capitalist system and violent projects of rapid development. The movements of the oppressed subjects sought to create pedagogical sites in which to make preparations for the fight against U.S. neocolonialism, militarism, the rise and multinational corporations disenfranchising farmers or exploiting workers, and the corruption of centralized dictatorial regimes, which were sustained throughout the latter half of the 20th century. According to Chungmoo Choi, “Madang guk, as underground theater, was produced not only by the minjung activists to mobilize masses but more importantly by the workers and farmers themselves, both as a means of collective resistance and as their discursive forum” (Choi 253). These ordinary workers and farmers worked side by side with activists in sites of radical pedagogy in order to rehearse collectively, as a community, for political action and consolidate a united front against powerful forces of oppression, including U.S. imperialism.


Works Consulted:

Boal, Augusto. Theatre of the Oppressed. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1985.

Choi, Chungmoo. “Transnational Capitalism, National Imaginary, and the Protest Theater in South Korea.” Boundary 2 22.1 (1995): 235-61.

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