Affect and Intimacy in Contemporary East and Southeast Asian Cinema

Thursday, 14:30-16:30, Media





Taking its cases from the globally circulating cinemas of Hong Kong, China, North Korea, and Thailand, this panel focuses on affect and intimacy as key factors in the making of social and political worlds. The individual papers investigate affect's role as a mechanism of coercive social integration in North Korean film; the potential of shared affective cultures to underwrite Buddhist-Muslim solidarities in films about the Thai South; the mutability of culture and urban affect across time and space in the Hong Kong cinema of Wong Kar-wai and the interlacing of economic and intimate practices in relation to Chinese socioeconomic transformation in the films of Yin Liang. Recognizing that formations of affect and cultures of intimacy represent variable meta-cultural forces, the panel examines national and transnational East and Southeast Asian histories of the present beyond those determined solely by the domain of the law, the state, or political movements. Through analyses that bridge the domains of the private and public and of material and textual worlds, we aim to shed new light on a set of contemporary East and Southeast Asian aesthetic, social, and political phenomena.


Under Permanent Exception: Buddhist-Muslim Intimacies in Contemporary Thai Cinema

Against the background of the Southern Thai conflict in which a perpetual state of emergency has become the norm, this paper inquires into how recent cinema reconceptualizes arenas of Buddhist-Muslim coexistence beyond conventional understandings of state and insurgent violence. Investigating how Thai mainstream cinema (Okay Betong, 2004; Our Southern Home, 2008) as well as independent films (Hasan, 2008; This Area Is Under Quarantine, 2008) of the past decade present Buddhist-Muslim same-sex and opposite-sex intimacies, the paper proposes a reframing of understandings of Southern Thai Buddhist-Muslim antagonisms. In the context of a conflict that is conceptualized in ethno-religious terms, it inquires into how cinematic discourses also deploy religious affect, albeit in counter-doctrinal ways, to intervene into the political status quo. Through the analysis of these stories' quotidian, affective dimensions and concentration on the ways in which non-state actors approach both conflict and coexistence, the paper further aims to complicate recent discussions of the relation of religion to gender and sexual freedoms.


Shame on You!: Shaming and Repentance as Means of Social and Ideological Inclusion in the North Korean Film The School Girl’s Diary

This paper investigates how recent North Korean films link various themes of family to discourses of the nation and national destiny. In particular, the paper examines how the film The School Girl's Diary (2006) emphasizes the necessity of personal renunciation for the sake of the collective. In the film the protagonist, a high-school student, blames her father for his long-term absence and accuses him of familial negligence. However, when she learns that her father works relentlessly for the well-being of the larger family of the nation, she undergoes a process of repentance. Ultimately she, too, adopts the sacrificial habitus of her parents and decides to fashion herself into a useful member of the country. This paper will show how the film applies emotion, especially shame, as a corrective to direct and educate people. Seen in the context of North Korean society, which is based on communist and Confucian values, shame becomes a dispositive which helps to produce obliging citizens. Through the analysis of the film The School Girl's Diary I will argue that it is precisely through shame that the protagonist can be (re)integrated into the family and return to the bosom of the "dear leader" – Kim Jung-Il.


Marginalized Masculinities? The Anti-Hero and His Female Counterpart in Independent Chinese Film

The figure of the male anti-hero struggling against daily challenges in the context of rapid economic and social transformation has become particularly popular in the works of independent Mainland Chinese film directors for more than a decade. Less attention has been paid to the interdependence of the construction of this type of hero with his female counterpart(s). This paper examines the impact of China's socioeconomic transformation on gender relations and male-female dynamics of power in Ying Liang's (应亮) feature "The Other Half"(另一半Ling Yi Ban)(2006). The main protagonist, a woman in her early twenties, starts to work as a lawyer's clerk in a town in Sichuan and listens to the stories of broken marriages told by female clients every day. Her own boyfriend is a drinker and gambler and always depends on her to pay the bills, but against all advice, she holds on to her idea that a love/family relationship should not solely be determined by economic aspects. Ying creates a series of female characters to discuss their individual opportunities, dreams, and desires which are related to relationships with men. However, nearly all fail due to a lack of emotional commitment and are overshadowed by the question of economic survival and the men's struggles to "keep face as (potential) breadwinners".