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Glossolalia and the Problem of Language$
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Nicholas Harkness

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226749389

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226749556.001.0001

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Abundance and the Ambivalent Gift

Abundance and the Ambivalent Gift

(p.21) 1 Abundance and the Ambivalent Gift
Glossolalia and the Problem of Language

Nicholas Harkness

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 1 introduces the striking ubiquity of glossolalia in South Korea and its penetration into Korean Christian worship beginning in the second half of the twentieth century. It begins with an account of a Presbyterian informant who regularly speaks and even dreams in tongues, whose husband speaks in tongues against his will, whose mother longs to speak in tongues but cannot, and whose father never speaks in tongues but regularly prays with people who do. It then develops the sociohistorical context for the widespread emergence of glossolalia across denominations and congregations in South Korea. In particular, it looks at what informants self-consciously described as a general sociocultural predilection for stimulation in South Korea, which manifests in Christianity as seemingly syncretic elements in worship practices. It also demonstrates how the contemporary institutional dynamics of Korean Christianity—especially the megachurch—shape feelings of both social connection and competition, linking glossolalia to the political economy of gender, class, and commodification in Seoul. It concludes by focusing on the Yoido Full Gospel Church and its members during the postwar urbanization of South Korean Christianity to situate glossolalia within an array of spiritual gifts targeted at the suffering postwar masses.

Keywords:   Sociolinguistics, Spiritual Gifts, Christian Denominations

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