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Parameters of Disavowal

Colonial Representation in South Korean Cinema

Jinsoo An (Author)

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The colonial experience of the early twentieth century shaped Korea’s culture and identity, leaving a troubling past that was subtly reconstructed in South Korean postcolonial cinema. Relating postcolonial discourses to a reading of Manchurian action films, kisaeng and gangster films, and revenge horror films, Parameters of Disavowal shows how filmmakers reworked, recontextualized, and erased ideas and symbols of colonial power. In particular, Jinsoo An examines how South Korean films privileged certain sites, such as the kisaeng house and the Manchurian frontier, generating unique meanings that challenged the domination of the colonial power, and how horror films indirectly explored both the continuing trauma of colonial violence and lingering emotional ties to the colonial order. Espousing the ideology of nationalism while responding to a new Cold War order that positioned Japan and South Korea as political and economic allies, postcolonial cinema formulated distinctive ways of seeing and imagining the colonial past.
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 is no more sustained and erudite examination of colonialism and film in Korea.” —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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