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2023/24 Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture: The Allegorical American: Positioning the United States in Chinese-Language Cinema

April 4 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm


The Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lectures are made possible by the generous support of Messrs. Alex and Chi Shum Watt in honour of their mother, the late Mrs. Wat, and her passion for Chinese literature and culture.

Cinema can play many roles, from entertainment to escapism, and from the pedagogical to the propagandistic. Within the matrix of Chinese language cinema, representations of the United States and the figure of the American have served a particularly powerful role in helping Chinese audiences imagine new global possibilities as well as themselves. Since 1949, the image of the American in Chinese-language cinema has undergone radical transformations. This history of representation is further complicated by radically different portrayals in different regions that produce Chinese-language film, including the PRC, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. These representations have also often served as a political tool to alternately temper or fuel global dreams, contend with new forms of nationalism, and establish a more complex understanding of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong’s place in the world. This talk will provide a critical overview of some of the major tropes, trends, and permutations that the United States has gone through in Chinese-language cinema. Turning to the present, it will also address the curious ways in which, against the backdrop of a so-called “New World Order,” it is actually old tropes and well-worn stereotypes that have found renewed cultural and political capital.