Envisioning Asia: On Location, Travel, and the Cinematic Geography of U.S. Orientalism
University of Michigan Press, 2010
Hardcover, 278 pages, $70
Jeanette Roan, faculty member in Visual and Critical Studies, examines the moment in which the birth of cinema coincided with the beginnings of U.S. expansion overseas. Throughout this period, she proposes, the cinema's function as a form of virtual travel, coupled with its purported "authenticity," served to advance America's shifting interests in Asia. Its ability to fulfill this imperial role depended, however, not only on the cinematic representations themselves but also on the marketing of the films' production histories and, in particular, their use of Asian locations.
Also, by focusing on the material practices involved in shooting films on location—the actual travels, negotiations, and labor of filmmaking—Roan moves beyond formal analysis to produce a richly detailed history of American interests, attitudes, and cultural practices during the first half of the 20th century.