Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


The Rhetorical Landscape of Itaewon: Negotiating New Transcultural Identities in South Korea

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Alberto González (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Hyeyoung Bang (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Radhik Gajjala (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Ellen Gorsevski (Committee Member)


In contemporary scholarship, space has emerged as a significant topic. Specifically in communication studies, the critical interrogation of persuasive strategies performed by spatial locations can provide scholars with the perspectives needed to adequately attend to identity politics within built environments. Drawing on the previous scholarship on space, place, and human-built environment, I elaborate the need for and benefits of defining a landscape in rhetorical terms. While developing the concept of rhetorical landscape, which directs attention to relational matters in space, this study examines the discursive changes and shifts involved in (re)imagining South Korea amidst various intersecting forces such as 20th century Cold War geopolitics, American hegemony, modernization, Americanization, nationalism, and multiculturalism. I analyze how the urban district called Itaewon, as synecdochic of Korean society and culture, spatially communicates the ever-changing rhetoric of Korean identity-building. By understanding sectors in Itaewon – such as streets, alleys, and particular places – as metonymic of conflicting ideas at historical junctures, I illuminate both the rhetoricity Itaewon embodies and its rhetoric elaborated through the dynamics among constituents configured on the landscape. I examine Itaewon as a site that negotiates transcultural identities as it mediates political, social, and cultural forces.