Friday, April 22, 2016

Taiwan Films: Symposium, Screenings, and New Book Release

Butler Library, Columbia University

The link to the press release for the April 21-22, 2016 Columbia University "Symposium and Screening of Taiwan Cinema to Celebrate New Book by Columbia University Press" is here:

The book release is for An Annotated Bibliography for Taiwan Film Studies by Jim Cheng, Sachie Noguchi, and James Wicks. The symposium includes presentations by Professors Guo-juin Hong, Robert Rui-Shou Chen, and James Wicks and screenings of Banana Paradise / 香蕉天堂 (Wang Tong, 1989, Buddha, Bless America / 太平天國 (Wu Nien-Jen, 1996), Maverick / 菜鳥 (2015), and 10 + 10 (Hou Hsiao-hsien et al., 2011).

An Annotated Bibliography for Taiwan Film Studies (Columbia UP, 2016)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Transnational Panels at AAS, Seattle 2016

I remain fascinated by the transnational as a theoretical framework. The organic ways in which this approach can take into account border crossings, while recording the unequal power exchange that might occur when bodies, ideas, and products move across national and other boundaries, seems to ensure that the transnational remains a relevant approach in multiple disciplines today.

However at times, when the “transnational” is used, the theoretical framework of the term is assumed rather than explained. In addition, the connections and differences between transnational studies and global creative industry studies are not always clearly delineated.

Regardless, it was a global creative industries panel that I found used a transnational approach most comprehensively; namely, the “The Rise and Fall of the Anime Boom in the US: Lessons for Global Creative Industries” panel which was interdisciplinary, well-organized, and collaborative. It was also probably my favorite of the Association for Asian Studies conference this year. Featuring commerce data, theory, and authoritative sources including numerous interviews, I was most inspired during the presentations by Nissim Otmazgin’s conclusion that one simultaneously locates deterritorialization (cross-continental mixture) and reterritorialization (distinct national characteristics) when analyzing anime as both creative content and commodity. The dialectic here is one that includes nuances and complex valences. In the process of uncovering these various dynamics, interestingly one still finds aspects of the center-periphery model firmly in place (a supporting comment along these lines can be located on my blog here).

Panels that addressed the transnational also included “Transnational Art in East Asia: The Politics of Exhibitions and Performances in the Twentieth Century” and “Transnationalism, Borderlands, and the History of Archaeology in Twentieth-Century East Asia,” among others.

The former looked at documents from Xinjing that provide local accounts of Aurel Stein's early 20th century expeditions (Justin Jacobs) and cultural exchanges between PRC and US archeologists (Clayton D. Brown), among other thought-provoking inquiries. The latter included discussions of art exhibits and exchanges between Japan and the PRC in the 1950s (Yanfei Yin), KMT art exhibitions in France between 1924-1964 in France (Jennifer Chernick), and Areum Jeong’s fascinating account of activists who are documenting and memorializing the Sewol ferry disaster of 2014.

I was grateful to participate in a panel, inherently comparative in its approach, entitled “Divergences and Convergences: Comparative Studies of Contemporary Literature, Film and Theater in PRC and Taiwan” with papers analyzing theater (Hongjian Wang), poetry (Brian Skerratt), fiction (Chialan Sharon Wang), and film (link to the panel papers here and my abstract here) on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Surprisingly, oftentimes Taiwan and PRC studies are not brought together in such a manner. A transnational comparative approach is essential when doing so, I believe.


Multiple presentations included "Transnational" in their titles; however below is a list of panels that contained in "Transnational" in their panel titles.

61. Legal Shades of Grey: Transnational Commerce in Early Communist China – Sponsored by Historical Society of Twentieth Century China (HSTCC)

92. May Fourth and Its Aftermath in a Transnational Context (missed due to having a panel at the same time)

173. Transnational Art in East Asia: The Politics of Exhibitions and Performances in the Twentieth Century

203. Transnationalism, Borderlands, and the History of Archaeology in Twentieth-Century East Asia

325. Construction of the Early Manchu State: Manchus and Their Transnational Relations from Aspects of Economy and Ideology – Sponsored by the Manchu Studies Group

333. Affiliations, Networks, and Identities: Transnational Chinese Religions in the Modern Period

Monday, April 4, 2016

Cold War Panels at AAS, Seattle 2016

During the Association for Asian Studies conference this year (Seattle, 2016) one of my goals was to attend panels that focused on the Cold War. I have an article in progress that deals with Hong Kong/Taiwan film during the era, so I'm particularly interested in the state of current research on this topic.

Of course, it's not possible to attend all of the panels that address a given topic, and at times interesting panels are scheduled at the same time. And I don't intend to use this forum to critique, or provide a comprehensive state of the field; rather, I just want to record a few highlights and impressions that will likely stay with me for some time following the conference.

On Friday morning, the "Framing Devices: Cold War Manga/Manwha and Popular Media in Japan and Korea" panelists collectively did a marvelous job identifying ways visual texts in new mediascapes "forged in Cold War geopolitics" portray bodies that are ethnicized, nationalized, gendered, at times sensualized, and displayed under a surveillance regime.

The "More than a Mouthpiece: Media Culture in Cold War China" panel, chaired by Jerome Silbergeld, featured presentations on: The Chinese Student Weekly and youth magazines in Hong Kong from 1952-1960 (Poshek Fu); the communal nature of TV viewing in 1970s China (Nicole Xincun Huang); the adaptation of a US television show in China in the early 1980s (Yinyin Xue), and Radio Culture in Cold War Hong Kong (Xiaojue Wang). The panel as a whole reminds one to keep in mind the intersection of multiple media cultures when analyzing the period. For example, as Xiaojue Wang presented, Wong Kar-wai's film In the Mood for Love (2000) includes Cold War-era radio as an important part of its soundtrack.

Saturday's "East Asian Intervention in the Cold War" panel included a presentation by Evelyn Shih on adaptations of 007 films into spy comedies. Examples of these adaptations, one from Taiwan and one from Korea, show the ways that Cold War espionage narratives became the source of humor even as their stories and characters mirrored regional and global conflicts.


Multiple presentations included "Cold War" in their titles; however, below is a list of panels that contained "Cold War" in their panel titles:

38. Framing Devices: Cold War Manga/Manwha and Popular Media in Japan and Korea

163. More than a Mouthpiece: Media Culture in Cold War China

223. “Cure the Sickness to Save the Patient”: Rescuing Thought Work from Cold War Ideology

273. East Asian Intervention in the Cold War: Breaking the Cultural Codes of Race, History, Genre, and Gender

331. Roundtable: JAS (Journal of Asian Studies) at AAS: Contemplating the Cold War in Asia

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Transnational and Totality, A Brief Comment

“In my use of the theory of transnationalism, I align with Fredric Jameson’s view that capitalism can be considered a totalizing system when globalization regards cultural dominants valued by various regional, national, and local cultures solely as hindrances to discard or overturn.(1) Otherwise, simply stating euphorically that cultural exchange--in this case the inspiration, production, and distribution of cinema--is a two-way street, offers too much latitude for global capitalism to disguise its dominance and maintain the unequal power relations it has produced.” 

(1) please see Fredric Jameson’s discussion of totality in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Duke UP, 1992.

-- from James Wicks, Transnational Representations: The State of Taiwan Film in the 1960s and 1970s, HKUP 2014. “Introduction,” xix.