Do Uniforms Signal Conformity? A Faculty Member Says No

A display of uniforms at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul. Photo by Kyunghee Pyun.

When children wear school uniforms, how much do they forfeit their individual identities? On Feb. 4, Kyunghee Pyun, associate professor, History of Art, gave a presentation about school uniform culture in South Korea. Inspired by the theories of semiotician Roland Barthes and sociologist Erving Goffman, Pyun examined images from media, such as the popular Korean film Our Twisted Hero (1992), which is about a schoolboy who is bullied. “I want to challenge a hypothesis that social influence has a significant impact on our beliefs or behaviors, making us more similar to others around us,” Pyun said. Following an established dress code “often represents superficial public compliance rather than private acceptance,” she argued.

The talk was hosted by the University of British Columbia Centre for Korean Research. View it here.


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