Legacies of Leftism in Film and Media Theory: East Asia and Beyond

Thursday, February 28, 2019 - Saturday, March 2, 2019 Lenfest Center for the Arts


Free and open to the public

No registration necessary

First come, first seated


Jane Gaines, Professor of Film, School of the Arts, Columbia University

Ying Qian, Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Columbia University

Takuya Tsunoda, Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Columbia University

How have Leftist traditions inspired film and media theories across the world, and what can we learn from these traditions today as we explore new methodologies in film and media studies and new political possibilities in the contemporary world?

Marxist theory has been considered a major influence on film and media theories in Europe and North America, from the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, the theories of Althusser, to the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies.  Moving away from these more familiar stories in Europe and North America, this conference takes East Asia as a focal point to investigate “Leftism” as changing, plural and contested positions in theory and politics that have tied emerging mass media forms to revolutionary upheavals and anti-imperial struggles in the region and beyond.

At the conference, we use “media” in the broadest sense of the term, including print, photography, film, animation, contemporary digital new media and more. We problematize “film and media theory” and its locations, excavating theory within the specific contexts of practice and criticism in East Asia.  Situating East Asia within broader transnational circuits of travel, translation and transformation, we ask how Leftist ideas have entered into other discourses such as anti-imperialism, nationalism, populism, statism, and developmentalism, and how such imbrications have impacted aesthetic theories as well as political, economic and social formations in the region.  

Invited papers engage with the following or related topics:

  • The Location of Film and Media Theory in East Asia
  • Travels, Translations, and Transformations of Marxism-inspired Theories in East Asia and Beyond
  • Film, media and critiques of Imperialism, Colonialism, Capitalism and Authoritarianism
  • Feminist film and media theories: Anarchist, Socialist, Radical, Marxist
  • Workers’ and Radical Film Movements: Transnational Linkages (Prokino)
  • Worldwide Maoism: Inspirations and Critiques
  • Historical Modes of Outrage: Melodrama and Documentary
  • Image Politics: Aestheticizing Politics and Politicizing Aesthetics
  • The Vicissitudes of Theoretical Work: Dissenting Voices and Factional Struggles
  • Marxism and Media Studies Today: “the Material” and “Materialist” Turns Leftist Intellectuals in Translation: Gonda Yasunosuke (Japan), Im Hwa (Korea)

Co-sponsors : Weatherhead East Asian Institute; Dragon Summit Fund, C.V. Starr Library, Donald Keene Center for Japanese Studies; Center for Korean Research; Academy of Korean Studies; Film and Media Studies, School of the Arts; Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought; Program in Chinese Literature and Culture, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures; Institute for Comparative Literature & Society;  Division of Humanities in Arts and Sciences Columbia University; Center for Comparative Media; Permanent Seminar on Histories of Film Theories

Confirmed Participants:


Weihong Bao, Associate Professor of Film and Media & East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California-Berkeley (China, Marxism, media and environment)

Laikwan Pang, Professor of Cultural Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong (China, semiotics of the counterfeit/intellectual property rights, cultural studies)

Lingzhen Wang, Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Studies, Brown University (China, feminism, comparative literature, cultural studies)

Ho Lok Victor Fan, Senior Lecturer, Film Studies, King’s College, London (China, critical theory)

Yomi Braester, Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media, University of Washington (literary and visual practices, with emphasis on modern China and Taiwan—in architecture, advertisement, screen media, and stage arts)

Jason McGrath, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota (Chinese and international cinemas; realism in fiction, film, and theory; Chinese and Western Marxism)


Aaron Gerow, Professor of Film Studies and East Asian Languages & Literatures, Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures, Yale University; (Japanese film and literature, film theory, television, animation, manga, film genre, East Asian cinema)

Diane Wei Lewis, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Washington University (Japanese cinema; early and silent cinema; film and art movements; theories of play)

Alexander Zhalten, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University (Japan, Nyu Aka theorists, German sexploitation, avant-garde film)

Yuriko Furuhata, Associate Professor, William Dawson Scholar of Cinema and Media History, Department of East Asian Studies; Associate member, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University (Japanese avant-garde and independent cinema, film and media theories, history of the moving image, photography and graphic design, architecture, environmental media)

Anastasia Fedorova, Associate Professor of Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, Moscow Higher School of Economics (Japanese and Russian cinema, montage and sound theory)


Moonim Baek, Professor of Korean Language & Literature, Director of Institute of Media Art, Yonsei University (Korea, colonial cinema, theories of subjectivity)

Jaeho Kang, Associate Professor of Communication, Department of Communication, Seoul National University (Walter Benjamin, Korea, intersection of media/space/body)

Soyoung Kim, Professor of Cinema Studies, Korea National University of Arts; President of the Association of Korean Cultural Studies (2018- present), Director of Trans Asia Screen Culture Institute, and filmmaker (Korea, feminism, modernity, social space, documentary film)

Travis Workman, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota (Korean and Japanese literature, film, and intellectual history, Marxism, postcolonial studies, humanism and empire, critical theory, film melodrama, Cold War aesthetics, North Korea)


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