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Parameters of Disavowal

Colonial Representation in South Korean Cinema

Jinsoo An (Author)

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Paperback, 197 pages
ISBN: 9780520295308
April 2018
$34.95, £27.95
Other Formats Available:
At publication date, a free ebook version of this title will be available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program. Visit to learn more.

The colonial experience of the twentieth century from 1910 to 1945 shaped the culture and identity of Korea, yet the manner in which South Korean postcolonial cinema depicts this troubling past has not received sufficient scholarly attention. Parameters of Disavowal seeks to break this hiatus. It approaches the subject of the colonial past in South Korean cinema as a particular kind of postcolonial knowledge production that responds to the repercussions of Cold War geopolitics while also subscribing to the precept of anticolonial nationalism. It advances beyond manifest readings of anticolonial messages by examining how postcolonial cinema not only posits, but also constructs Korean national history through disavowals and elisions of the very past they wish to represent. In particular, this book focuses on how South Korean films have created ways of seeing and imagining the colonial past by privileging certain Korean sites as spaces generating unique meanings and values contrary to the assumed total domination of the colonial power. These films thereby inscribe colonial power within parameters of disavowal, ultimately rendering it delimited, incomplete, and flawed. This unique cinematic mode of visualization, the author argues, has shaped historical thinking about Korea’s colonial past and demands further investigation of the relationship between politics and aesthetics in cinema.
Jinsoo An is Assistant Professor of Korean Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley.
“A groundbreaking work that articulates a new methodology of theorizing and analyzing postcolonial cinema.”—Hyon Joo Yoo, author of Cinema at the Crossroads: Nation and the Subject in East Asian Cinema 

“This is the fruit of intense devotion to the study of Korean cinema. At a moment when interdisciplinarity and transnationality are virtual requisites within humanities disciplines, Jinsoo An’s bold commitment to mining the layers and sometimes contradictions of individual films is remarkable. There has not yet been as sustained and erudite an examination of colonialism and film in Korea as this book.” Steven Chung, author of Split Screen Korea: Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema

“An offers a fresh perspective on South Korean cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. He reveals filmmakers’ ongoing engagement with Japan and shows how representations of the colonial past were essential to the construction of South Korea’s postcolonial and Cold War identity. An brings a new body of films into the critical conversation with a cinephile’s passion and a theorist’s rigor. A major contribution.”—Christina Klein, author of Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945–1961

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