Underwood, Elizabeth 1961–

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Underwood, Elizabeth 1961–

(Elizabeth Ann Underwood)


Born 1961. Education: Grand Valley State College, B.S., 1987; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, A.M., 1994, Ph.D., 2000.


Office—Eastern Kentucky University, Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work, Keith Hall, Richmond, KY 40475. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, sociologist, and missionary. Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, assistant professor of sociology. Presenter at conferences and scholarly meetings. Department of Consumer and Family Sciences, University of Illinois, research data analyst, 1992-95.


Phi Kappa Phi.


Outstanding Senior in Behavioral Sciences, Grand Valley State College, 1986; University Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, 1990-91; Graduate Student Paper Award, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, 1994; North East Asian Council, Association for Asian Studies travel grant, 1994; Foreign Language and Area Studies Grant, University of Illinois, 1995-96; Fulbright Fellowship, 1996-97; Graduate College Dissertation Writing Fellow, University of Illinois, 1997-98.


Challenged Identities: North American Missionaries in Korea, 1884-1934, Royal Asiatic Society-Korea Branch (Seoul, South Korea), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, Sociological Quarterly, and Contemporary Sociology.


Author and sociologist Elizabeth Underwood is an assistant professor of sociology at Eastern Kentucky University. She graduated magna cum laude from Grand Valley State College in 1987 with a B.S. in sociology. Underwood pursued her graduate studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she earned an A.M. in 1998 and a Ph.D. in 2000, both in sociology. As an academic, she studies the sociology of religion and family, historical sociology, demography, and East Asian culture and sociology. Further, she teaches courses on topics such as these, in addition to courses in racial and ethnic minorities and methods of social research.

In a statement on the Eastern Kentucky University Web site, Underwood commented, "I am fully committed to the importance of quality undergraduate teaching for all students. Moreover I believe in bringing a full range of life-experiences into the classroom to engage in and broaden the views of students."

In Challenged Identities: North American Missionaries in Korea, 1884-1934, Underwood explores the concepts of identity as experienced by American missionaries as they traversed Korea in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentieth. As they performed their duties, they found themselves negotiating their American identities as they approached and interacted with Korean culture. American missionaries could not ignore Korean culture, Underwood concludes. Instead, they had to confront Korean culture and reconcile it with their American background. "North American missionaries in Korea grew up in an American culture, but should love Korean people. This was a dilemma for most of them. This book provides us many aspects of missionaries' lives such as their effort to be familiar with Korean culture as well as their failure to do so," commented Myung Soo Park in Church History.

Throughout the book, "Underwood is less interested in chronicling the history of American missions or the rise of Korean Christianity, though readers catch glimpses of both. Instead, she focuses on the influence of mission work on the missionaries themselves, asking how and to what extent they identified with Korea," commented David K. Yoo in the Journal of Religion.

Though Underwood applies the techniques of the scholar and researcher to her work on Korea, she also maintains a close personal tie to the country. She is descended from the first American Protestant missionaries to work there, and is the fourth generation of her family to serve as a missionary in Korea. Her "candid discussion of her personal ties to the subject matter is both refreshing and insightful," Yoo remarked.



Church History, June, 2006, Myung Soo Park, review of Challenged Identities: North American Missionaries in Korea, 1884-1934, p. 470.

Contemporary Sociology, July, 2006, Eui-You Yu, review of Challenged Identities, p. 388.

International Bulletin of Missionary Research, July, 2005, James Huntley Grayson, review of Challenged Identities, p. 161.

Journal of Asian Studies, November, 2005, Timothy S. Lee, review of Challenged Identities, p. 1047.

Journal of Religion, April, 2006, David K. Yoo, review of Challenged Identities, p. 305.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2006, review of Challenged Identities.


Eastern Kentucky University Web site,http://www.eku.edu/ (May 28, 2008), author's curriculum vitae.