This dissertation is a genealogical study of the relationship between instructional technologies and uneven development. It focuses on the work of the Chinese educational film movement, which unfolded as a mélange of governmental and non-governmental initiatives over the course of the 1930s and 1940s. As I argue, educational cinema presented Chinese interlocutors with a "developmental interface," that is, an equivocal material and metaphorical framework for negotiating the technical, economic, and cultural asymmetries produced by modern imperialism and capital accumulation. Challenging unidirectional conceptions of media instrumentality, which are often based on flattening notions of the state and medium specificity, the project approaches the educational film as an interface, defined as a surface connecting heterogeneously structured realities, defined by distributions of workability and unworkability. Inserted at the rough edges between Confucian traditions of popular uplift, modern models of pedagogical discipline, and the international circulation of communication technologies, jiaoyu dianying/"educational cinema" comprised a particularly unworkable interface, caught between the dispersive temporalities of acute developmental unevenness, on the one hand, and the path-determining technological and institutional forms that defined international modes of media governance, on the other. As an interface for developmental desires, educational cinema united teachers, politicians, filmmakers, and engineers under a common framework, promising them a direct line to masses otherwise dispersed by social fragmentation, illiteracy, poor roads, dialect differences, and an intensifying rural-urban divide. As a global aesthetic and technical reality, it subjected its users to a new, and no less unequal, milieu of international technology exchanges, expert knowledges, and mass-mediated visibility. Drawing on interdisciplinary methods of institutional history alongside the close reading of films, reports, diagrams, and teaching guides generated by Chinese instructional bodies, I show how cinema participated in the metamorphoses of institutional power, literary authority, temporality, and affective texture that defined Chinese Republican-era cultural crisis.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2017. Major: Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society. Advisors: Cesare Casarino, Jason McGrath. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 409 pages.
Moving Pictures, Empty Words: Cinema as Developmental Interface in the Chinese Reconstruction, 1932-1952.
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