Please join us on Friday, May 4th at 11:00 AM in Cobb 311 for the next meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This time, we welcome Nadine Chan, Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. She will be presenting a chapter in her monograph-in-progress. The chapter is titled “Disciplining Filmic Vagrancies: Venereal Disease Propaganda and the Emergent Governance of an Unruly Medium.”
Allyson Nadia Field, Associate Professor in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, will serve as the discussant.
Nadine’s chapter is available for download here.
Please email either Jenisha [email@example.com] or Panpan [firstname.lastname@example.org] for the password.
Refreshments will be provided.
We look forward to seeing you!
Yours in Mass Cult,
Jenisha and Panpan
Disciplining Filmic Vagrancies:
Venereal Disease Propaganda and the Emergent Governance of an Unruly Medium
In the early 1920s, the British Social Hygiene Council began circulating educational films on venereal disease prevention among Britain’s colonies and protectorates. Upon learning that these films featured scenes of tawdry European women cavorting with lusty sailors, colonial officials panicked over the damage that could be potentially done to “white” prestige in the colonies. Concerned about the illicit pleasures that colonial audiences were taking from the screening of educational films, cinema theaters and screening spaces become racially parsed sites of discipline. Debates about who could and could not attend sexual hygiene screenings were extended to questions about the nature of the Asian spectator and the ways in which this enigmatic figure engaged with the relatively new medium of film. Moreover, the moral outrage over this “venereal disease film scandal” led to the establishment of comprehensive censorship laws in the British colonies that were predicated on moral grounds. In this paper, explores how slippery cinemas and unruly spectatorships resulted in the governance of the cinematic event as a site of colonial discipline. As the filmic medium itself underwent scrutiny, imperial officials conceived of a unique colonial spectator whose perceived filmic (il)literacies justified new regulatory measures which determined how educational cinema would be produced, distributed, and exhibited in the British empire in the decades to follow.
Nadine Chan is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Her articles have been published in Cinema Journal, Studies in Documentary Film, and Spectator. Chan’s manuscript-in-progress examines colonial educational film in British Malaya and Singapore through the framework of cinematic “unruliness.”