Mask sociology as a way of action theory: Voices of the face mask among social individuals in the COVID-19 masquerade in South Korea

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Abstract

South Koreans are susceptible to the medical face mask against the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, their mask practices are intriguingly laden with contradictions and inconsistencies. This study accounts for this puzzle by expanding two sociological frontiers: the sociology of action (i.e., action theory of agency and individuality) and the sociology of the mask. Drawing on action theory, it stresses that contradictions and inconsistencies reveal the nature of individuals as social individuals and develops a typology of social individuals during the current pandemic (i.e., atomists, collectivists, and dualists). For mask sociology, it amplifies that any mask practices are conceptualized as a masquerade involving multiple elements for individuality and proposes a theory of mask multivocality that appreciates the ways in which masquerade the social drama becomes concretized. With this two-pronged conceptual innovation, it first demonstrates a patterned relationship between social individuals and mask multivocality. Dualists take more voices from the mask than atomists or collectivists. Dualists take the most contradictory voices as well. Second, it shows that Koreans who take more meanings from the mask reveal not only more vulnerability but more transformative power amid the current pandemic. Demonstrating the promise of mask sociology for the action theory of individuality, it ultimately argues that individuals as social performers often reveal themselves as mask-wearers who become as transformative as they are vulnerable. While this model is founded upon the recent pandemic, it ramifies in political and cultural events that various face coverings accompany.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0293758
JournalPloS one
Volume18
Issue number11 November
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Nov

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Jae-Mahn Shim.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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