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

Thursday, February 28, 2019 - Saturday, March 2, 2019  7:30pm Lenfest Center for the Arts


Free and open to the public

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.  

Conference is free and open to the public

Registration is required for public evening events March 1 & 2


Thurs. February 28  - Columbia University Faculty House

7:30 pm – 9:30 pm -  Conference Round Table – Faculty House

            Welcome: Haruo Shirane, Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature

            Chair, East Asian Languages and Cultures Department, Columbia University

                              “Criticism on the Left Today: Agenda for the Next Generation”

John Rajchman Adjunct Professor, Art History & Archaeology, Columbia University

Jaeho Kang Associate Professor of Communication, Seoul National University

Nico Baumbach Associate Professor of Film, Columbia University


Friday, March 1- Lenfest Center for the Arts,  Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

8:30 am – Registration – Lenfest Lobby

9:00 am – Welcome – Sarah Cole, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Dean of Humanities, Columbia University


Panel 1:  9:15 am – 10:30 am: China and Leftist Theory: Then and Now 

Chair: Lydia Liu Director, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society;

                 Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University

Yomi Braester Professor of Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media, Univ. of Washington:

“Leftism is an Issue of Traveling: On the Gaps between Theory, Criticism, and Activism”

Jason McGrath Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Literatures, Univ. of Minnesota:

“Prescriptive Realism: Theorizing Chinese Cinema from Communism to Capitalism”

Respondent: Laurence Coderre Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies, New York University


Coffee Break - 10:30 am – 10:55 am – The Lantern – 8th floor 


Panel 2: 11:00 am – 12:15 pm:  Feminist Theory & Critical Theory in Korea 

Chair: Steven Chung Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Princeton University

Jaeho Kang Associate Professor of Communication, Seoul National University:

“Beyond Left-Wing Melancholy: Legacies of Critical Theory in Media Studies in South Korea”

Soyoung Kim Professor of Cinema Studies, Korea National University of Arts:

“Inside/Outside (內外): Postcolonial Women’s Sphere of Media and Maechae (媒體)”

Respondent: Rob King Associate Professor of Film, Columbia University


12: 15 pm – 1:30 pm - Lunch Break


Panel 3: 1:30 pm – 3:15 pm: Praxis  

Chair: Tomi Suzuki Professor of Japanese Literature, Columbia University

Anastasia Fedorova Associate Professor of Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, Moscow Higher School of Economics:

“Echoes of ‘Socialist Realism’ in Japanese Film Theory and Practice”

Diane Wei Lewis Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies, Washington University-St. Louis:

"Prokino's Praxis: The Theory behind Mobile Film Units and Mobilization Networks during Its Bolshevization Period (1930-1932)"

Jane Gaines Professor of Film, Columbia University

“The 1930s Workers International Photo Leagues and the Comintern”

Respondent: Tatiana Linkhoeva Assistant Professor of Japanese, New York University

Coffee Break: 3:15 – 3:40 pm - Lenfest – The Lantern - 8th floor 


Panel 4: 3:45 pm– 5:30 pm:  Theories of Subjectivity, Coordination & Movement

Chair: Wei Shang Du Family Professor of Chinese Culture, EALAC, Columbia University

Ying Qian Assistant Professor of Chinese Cinema and Media, EALAC, Columbia University:

“Creative Labor in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction and Colonial War: Zheng Junli's Theory of Acting beyond Stanislavski in China”

Weihong Bao Associate Professor of Film and Media, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley:

“The Art of Coordination: Design Thinking and Media Politics in Wartime China.”

Laikwan Pang, Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong:

“Maoism and Development: China’s Great Leap Forward versus India’s Naxalite Movement”

Respondent: Debashree Mukherjee Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University

5:45 pm – 7:15 pm  Dinner Break


Evening Screening: Reserve Your Seat

        Treasures from the Archives – Japan and the U.S.

7:30 pm – 10:30 pm Lenfest Center for the Arts – Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

Introduction: Carol Gluck, George Sansom Professor of History; Chair, Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University

            “Akira Iwasaki and Erik Barnouw: Prokino and Columbia University”                                               

Markus Nornes, Professor of Asian Cinema, University of Michigan

 Screening: digital scan of select reels:

             Effects of the Atomic Bomb (Akira Iwasaki, Japan, 1945/1964)


Saturday. March 2 – Lenfest Center for the Arts - Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

8:30 am – Registration – Lenfest Lobby

Welcome: 9:00 am Francesco Cassetti, Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Humanities and Professor of Film, Yale University, Permanent Seminar on Histories of Film Theories


Panel 5: 9:15 am – 10:30 am: Performing Media Theories in Postwar Japan

Chair: Noam Elcott Associate Professor and Chair of Art Humanities, Columbia University

Alexander Zahlten Associate Professor of EALAC, Harvard University:

“From Media Environment to Media Ecology: Leftist Media Theory and the 1970s Occult Boom in Japan”

Franz Prichard Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies, Princeton University:

“Naked-Eye Reflex: Materiality and Mediation in Nakahira Takuma’s Photographic Praxis”

Respondent: Nick Kapur Assistant Professor of History, Rutgers-Camden


Coffee Break – 10:30 am – 10:55 am – The Lantern – 8th floor  


Panel 6:  11:00 am – 12:15 pm: Power & Precarity

Chair: Eugenia Lean Associate Professor, East Asian Languages & Cultures; Director, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University

Victor Fan Senior Lecturer of Film Studies, King’s College London:

“Hong Kong 1967: Cinemas of Political Precarity––Then and Now”

Lingzhen Wang Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Brown University:

“Socialist Feminism and Chinese Women's Mainstream Experimental Cinema”

Respondent: Liang Luo Associate Professor of Chinese Literature and Culture, University of Kentucky


12:15 pm – 1:45 pm – Lunch Break


Panel 7: 1:45 pm – 3:00 pm:  Colonial/Post-Colonial

Chair: Claudia Breger Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Travis Workman Associate Professor of Asian Languages & Literatures, Univ. of Minnesota:

"The Problem of Repetition in Colonial and Postcolonial Korean Film and Film Theory"

Moonim Baek Professor of Korean Language and Literature, Yonsei University:

 “Facing Colonial Comrades: Typology of “Malcontent Koreans” in Socialist Alliances”

Respondent: Theodore Hughes Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies, East Asian Literature and Culture, Columbia University


Coffee Break: 3:00 pm – 3:25 pm – Lenfest, The Lantern, 8th floor


Panel 8: 3:30 – 4:45 pm: Technique, Technology and Visuality

Chair: Paul Anderer Mack Professor of Humanities & Professor of Japanese Literature, Columbia University

Aaron Gerow Professor of Film Studies and East Asian Languages and Literatures, Yale University:

“Miura Tsutomu’s Anti-Montage Dialectics”

Takuya Tsunoda Assistant Professor of Japanese Cinema and Media, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University:

“Method of Science Film: Tsuchimoto Noriaki and some Notes on Film Techniques” 

Respondent: Nate Shockey Assistant Professor of Japanese, Bard College


5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Dinner Break


Traditional Chinese prelude music – Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room


Evening Screening – Reserve Your Seat

Treasures from Asian Film Archives – China

7:30 pm – 10:30 pm – Lenfest Center for the Arts - Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room

Introduction: Jim Cheng, Director, C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University

             Introduction to film: Li DaoXin, Professor, School of Arts, Peking University

                Translation: Wentao Ma, Columbia University 

Under the Heel (Dir & sc: Wang Yuanlong, Da Zhonghua-Baihe Film Co., 1929) rt. 60 min.

                    Silent piano accompaniment: Makia Matsumura


Free and Open to the Public. 

Not at Lenfest, No Registration Required

Click here for more information.


Sunday, March 3, 2019           7:00 pm 

203 Butler Library, Columbia University

 “Archiving Disappearing Worlds and World Views:

     Chinese Independent Documentary at Columbia”

Screening and talk:

Chi Wang, documentary film historian; former faculty, Communication University of China; and editor, Documenting & Methods and Contemporary Documentary Practice; guest editor: World Cinema (Beijing) and Contemporary Cinema (Beijing); Co-author with Brian Winston and Gail Vanstone, The Act of Documentary



              Tianamen (Shi Jian, China, 1991)

              River Elegy (Xia Jun, China, 1988)


                  Weatherhead East Asian Institute

                   Film and Media Studies, School of the Arts

                   C.V. Starr East Asian Library

                   Columbia Global Center l Beijing

Producer: Ron Gregg, Film and Media Studies, Columbia University

Organizers: Jane Gaines, Ying Qian, and Takuya Tsunoda


Friday screening: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/screening-talk-treasures-from-the-archives-japan-the-us-tickets-55350018395
Saturday screening: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/screening-treasures-from-asian-film-archives-china-tickets-55351052488

Co-sponsors : The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities; Weatherhead East Asian Institute; Dragon Summit Fund, C.V. Starr East Asian 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; The 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; School of the Arts Dean’s Global Programs; The Columbia University Faculty Seminar on  “Sites of Cinema”; Permanent Seminar on Histories of Film Theories; Columbia University Press; The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Office of the Executive Vice President and Dean of Arts & Sciences Columbia University; Columbia Global Center l Beijing



By Semester