Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 1
Interrogating East Asian Transnationalisms: Film, Television, Spectatorship
Chair/Organizer: Stephanie DeBoer, University of Southern California

Recent years have witnessed a growing body of literature concerned with the exchange, flows, and receptions of media as they are negotiated across borders-flows certainly not new to the world stage, yet whose more recent configurations are often understood through "transnational" or "global" discourses as they interact with the interlocking networks of capital, information, technology, and images articulated by Arjun Appadurai. The heightened levels of exchange, cooperation, and co-production among East Asian media as well increasing presence of East Asian film in world festival markets over the past few decades certainly reflect such global "flows within flows." At the same time, attention to particular (East Asian) locations, configurations, and discursive contexts seems necessary if we are to explain with any significance the implications of such transnational media.
The spectrum of topics represented in this panel-from the "visibility" of Chinese language films in international festivals, to Japanese fan discourses on Hong Kong stardom, the reception of Korean television in Taiwan, and nostalgic production surrounding an earlier (problematic) "transnational" Japanese film star-point to the wide range of media, locations, discourses, and theoretical approaches available to questioning the implications of media flows within an East Asian context. Yet what links these papers together is their interest in not simply reproducing academic theories, but rather interrogating-and occasionally challenging-such understandings of the transnational in their attention to specific East Asian locations and texts.

1) Stephanie DeBoer, University of Southern California. "Reproducing China Nights? Nostalgic Geographies, Gender, and the Transnational Star"

The emergence of the 1940s female star Li Xianglan (a.k.a. Yamaguchi Yoshiko/Ri Koran) in a variety of recent East Asian popular culture-nostalgic reproductions of popular songs, quotes of her figure in film and television, as well as musicals and conferences that work to reevaluate (or reproduce the spectacle of) her public figure-highlights the ambivalent discourses that continue to surround her star image. On the one hand, they point to the interplay of romance and (not unproblematic) transnational ideals evoked by her ambiguous identities as a Manchurian born Japanese national who was advertised as a Chinese star uniting Japan's wartime colonialist films. Yet this recent popular (re)production posits her image not only as a site of reification-of nostalgia for the borderless aura of this early figure-but also, at other moments, as a point of interrogation into the transnational ideals that mobilized her early image in colonialist films.

This paper takes its cues from feminist criticism's observance of the ambivalent links between gendered bodies and transnational imaginings in its discussion of the cultural production surrounding Li Xianglan. Caren Kaplan, for example, suggests how such borderless fantasies may work to "reify gender through nostalgia or authenticity" even as they remain potential critical sites of dissent through readings attentive to their historical contexts. Nostalgic production surrounding this gendered image thus becomes a site of contested discourses on (specifically, East Asian) transnational media as it confronts questions of spectatorship, location, memory, and history. Such complex and uneven production further challenges certain uses of the term "transnational" that continue to reify a monolithic "East" caught only in its binary against the "West."

2) Lori Hitchcock, Indiana University. "Seeing Stars: Women Watching Leslie Cheung"

Ever since the Japanese release of Chen Kaige's epic Farewell, My Concubine, Hong Kong actor/singer Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing has enjoyed popularity among Japanese women rivaling that of Jackie Chan in the 1980s. In films, on stage, and in his public appearances, Cheung is a paragon of ambiguity-at once local and global, male and female, public and private. That the specific meanings of his Japanese reception are largely contingent on this fluidity suggests the ways in which his star persona offers a site through which audiences' own identities, within an always amorphous transnational sphere, themselves may be understood as ambiguous. As Ella Shohat and Robert Stam have argued, practices of transnational spectatorship manifest a tension between present (institutional) constraints and "future-oriented" identity formation; that is, between discrete identities (national, gendered, sexual, etc.), on the one hand, and those more fluid identities embodied in Cheung's star image.
This paper examines a variety of fan-produced texts on Cheung-essays, letters, comics-in order to better understand the various articulations of Cheung's enigmatic star image with those discursive strands that traverse and constitute his Japanese audience, revealing how this image manifests, reflects, and informs practices of East Asian transnational spectatorship.

3) Chun-Chi Wang, University of Southern California. "Stepping Out or Stepping Backward?-A Critical View of Television's Transnationalism."

The concept of "global village" has gradually developed in the post war era. Unsurprisingly, it has also been integrated into the capitalist system as a major marketing strategy. Television is never absent in this globalization project-as Michael Curtin points out, television has been expected to expand audiences and to promise a shared cultural context that brings citizens of the world closer together.
Numerous scholars have applied the term "transnational" to their theoretical discussions, yet with a wide spectrum of attitudes, from utopianism to distopian pessimism. Because the definition of transnationalism is not monolithic, it seems not enough for us to analyze transnationalism only at the level of recognizing products that cross national boundaries. In other words, considering the meanings and the impacts of transnationalism only from a national identity standpoint is somewhat problematic.
In this paper, I will analyze a popular South Korean drama series, "Endless Love" (lan-se-sheng-si-lian), which was recently broadcast in Taiwan to challenge certain ideas of transnationalism and to dismantle its mystification. Along with 'hari' (Japan-phile), the popularity of this drama series is said to take the lead of 'hahan,' Korean-phile, in Taiwan. Yet, is "Endless Love" successful because of its specific characteristics as a South Korean cultural product? I argue that the popularity of "Endless Love" resulted from: 1) its melodramatic elements, which resonated with Taiwanese TV melodramas; 2) its concerns of moral issues, which are shared by both countries; and 3) the triumph of capitalist commodity circulation of stars and entertainment business. Furthermore, I argue it is its well-accepted conservative morality that can go beyond the differences between the two countries and later be recognized by both. Transnationalism has not made a breakthrough into local politics; rather, it may just reassure what happens locally with another confirmation from overseas.

4) Chia-chi Wu, University of Southern California. "'I am a Chinese Language Film'-a Preliminary Investigation of East Asian International Film Festivals in Relation to Chinese Language Cinemas."

Countering the age-old conception of "seeing" or "vision" as something rendered possible by a source of light that casts itself upon and illuminates pre-existing objects, Michel Foucault re-defines visibility as determined by an appratus/dispositif, a scopic regime that structures light in particular ways, demarcates the visible from the invisible, and dictates what it will bring into light and what it will obscure. This essay considers international film festivals as such a Foucaultian apparatus and examines how they have shaped the visibility and the discourses of Chinese language films made in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. I argue that international film festivals, as venues of filmic exhibition, cultural forums and market places, constitute a specific material condition of the global system that facilitates the participation of Chinese communities in the "global history of modern visuality." Particularly since the 80s, international film festivals have simultaneously rendered visible and prompted the transition of Chinese language films from diasporan representations that testify political partition and disparate national/political identities to filmic productions that, under the trademarks of international auteurs, result from borderless capitalization.
This essay focuses upon certain international film festivals in East Asia-Pusan International Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, and Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival by reviewing their programming and publicity materials. In doing so, it considers film festivals as part of a globalizing cultural practice. Such a practice entails Chinese communities' coalescence into the global system of capital and the constitution of trans-Chinese subjectivity, as implicated in such epithets as three Chinas, a Greater China, a Cultural China, or cultural nationalism. Certain issues regarding transnational spectatorship/reception will also be explored, such as the ways in which the staging of Chinese language films may override the narratives and give rise to multiple practices of (mis-) readings; and how the success of certain Chinese language films in the film festival circuit bespeaks the text's proximity to the culture and values of the transnational capitalist class, which is the main audience for festivals.

Discussant: Mary Shuk-han Wong, University of Tokyo


list of panels