This summer, the ISM welcomed Dr. Bo kyung Blenda Im as assistant professor of sacred music and of divinity. Her new appointment began on August 1.
Im is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in popular culture and Christianity in Korea and the Korean diaspora. By centering the work of Asian/diasporic faith practitioners in her scholarship, she unsettles Western colonial epistemologies – particularly neo-Orientalist constructions of “Asia” – that condition the terms of inclusion and exclusion in the modern world. Her interdisciplinary research primarily addresses music studies and actively dialogues with religious studies, Korean studies, ethnic studies, and anthropology.
Im’s growing intellectual and personal interests in sacred music during her undergraduate years at the University of California, Los Angeles, led her to a double major in music history and communication studies. She matriculated at the Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School to pursue the M.A.R. in Religion and Music, and thereafter received her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Pennsylvania. Upon completing her doctoral work, Im held appointments at Yale first as a lecturer in ethnomusicology (spring 2020) and then as a postdoctoral associate in the ISM (2020–2021). Most recently she was the Global Korean Diasporas postdoctoral fellow at the Korea Institute at Harvard University.
Her book project, Transpacific Modernity and the Forgotten Constant: Race, Music, and Faith in Seoul, reconceives transpacific musical modernity through a restorative chronopolitical framework. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Seoul, the project examines the co-production of ethnoracial and religious subjectivity in Korean Christian engagements with Black gospel and contemporary worship music. In her research and teaching on music and religion, Im makes space for conversations on race and racialization, transnational migration, and decoloniality in the Pacific Basin.
Im’s research has been supported through various grants and fellowships, including the Fulbright U.S. Student (IIE) Research Award and the Y. H. Park Fellowship in Korean Studies at Penn. Her work has been recognized with prizes from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Association for Korean Music Research, and the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music. Im presents her work regularly at national and international conferences such as the Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting and the biennial Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspectives conference. She looks forward to joining a church community in Connecticut where she can support congregational singing as a worship band keyboardist.
In her dual roles at the ISM and Yale Divinity School, Im will teach courses that broadly integrate the study and practice of religion with that of music. As opportunities arise, Im will offer courses to other constituencies at Yale. During her year as post-doctoral associate, Dr. Im generously contributed many insights and much work to the ISM’s efforts in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, which her work both explicates and supports. We welcome Dr. Bo kyung Blenda Im to the Yale faculty!