Asian Cinema and the Cultural Cold War: Virtual Conference 2021

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It is with great pleasure that we invite you to the Asian Cinema and the Cultural Cold War Virtual Conference 2021.

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The purpose of the conference is to create a space for scholarly exchange across disciplines, bringing together scholars working with the various archives and other sources related to the history and culture of postwar Asian cinema, decolonization, international politics, and the US hegemony and cultural diplomacy in the Cold War era. Academic experts from Asia-Pacific, the UK, and North America will be invited, along with core participants from NTU, NUS, and SMU in Singapore.

Scholarship on the “Cultural Cold War” first emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The pivotal work in this “cultural turn” is Frances Saunders’s The Cultural Cold War (2000), which examines how the CIA funded intellectual magazines, musical performances, art exhibitions and the like as “weapons” against the Soviet Union and its allies. Indeed, both Americans and Soviets viewed popular culture as an important weapon in the struggle to win influence in Europe during the Cold War. Since Saunders’s publication, in the realm of cinema, film historians have revealed how U.S. agencies worked covertly with film industries to influence the formation of ideology and identity in postwar Europe, both East and West. Cold War historians of Hollywood and European cinema, however, might be surprised to discover how little has been written about cultural matters in Asia during the Cold War.

Although the Cold War was by definition a global conflict, and the United States confronted both the Soviet Union and China on the Asian periphery, Asia has been much less covered in the cultural Cold War literature, most of which focuses on U.S. cultural policy and is concerned with Europe. Similarly, while there is a considerable body of scholarship on the Cold War in Asia, little of this work deals with the cultural fronts of the war. Specifically, the film cultures and industries in Asia during this period have largely been overlooked. The Cultural Cold War, like other aspects of American foreign engagement, lay at the intersection of the work of government agencies, private philanthropies, business interests, and the military.

Asian Cinema and the Cultural Cold War will be the first attempt to resuscitate this forgotten history of Asia, and it will reveal an important piece in the larger history of the cultural, political, and institutional linkages between the US, Europe, and Asia during the Cold War.

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