Introduction--Global East Asian Cinema: Abjection and Agency.
One way of addressing today's East Asian cinema is to position it in global cinema as world cinema seen in a global frame. It may not sound fresh, but what is global cinema is still vague in film studies. It would thus be indispensable to formulate the global frame first in a convincing way that applies to world cinema and further to East Asia. The simple initial question is: what is 'global"? This word is now used everywhere, but not without justification. Even the tautological idiom 'global world' implies more than just the world, namely a globally integrated world. Although we cannot visit all its corners and meet all people, we can imagine and cognitively map this global community to which we believe we belong more than to a mere world where we remain ignorant of, detached from, or indifferent to most of its different parts. In short, the whole world is now an "imagined community" as Benedict Anderson (1991) would say. with the imaginary effect of global interconnectedness produced by globalizing apparatuses. Being 'global' means being 'globalized' from the non-global world.
This globalization is, however, never fully global, or rather, full of global schisms. The end of the Cold War indeed merged two ideologically oppositional blocs into one liberal capitalist globe but was followed by a new division between the whole system and its remnants and new antinomies that debunk and rupture it in the forms of terroristic, economic, ecological, migration and refugee crises. World politics has become nothing but the administration of this globe as the "World Interior" of capital, its policing measures, security services, and disposal methods including military violence on its outside based on judgmental principles (Sloterdijk 2013. 247). Put simplistically, political ideologies have been replaced with the ethical mission of protecting a single-market global system as 'good' and eradicating the radical remainder as 'evil." Circa 1990 indeed marks the starting point of post-political globalization, the beginning of "the End of History" sensationally proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama (2006)--let's admit that Fukuyamaism may continue to be valid unless we have viable alternatives to capitalism, even as the original Fukuyamaist partner of capitalism is now changing from democracy to authoritarianism as seen in China and Russia among others. This double bind of Fukuyaman globalization with its discontents marks a political dead end. the end of politics.
In this context, it is useful to examine post-politics and its "ethical turn" as critiqued by Jacques Ranciere and the like by looking back on the past three decades along three historical waves of globalization. For Ranciere (2004), the core of politics is "dissensus": not a simple disagreement between different opinions or groups, but the structural division between different views on how to count a community's population and parts, or different ways of how to imagine the community as a whole. A political conflict occurs when those uncounted, whose voice is treated only as angry noise, speak out to those within the State by creating a common sphere of contestation, thereby redistributing "the sensible" in the sense of what is possible to see, say, hear, or do. A political "people" is thus born out of their sensible claim to rights that challenge the rights of other "peoples" inscribed in the law, restructuring the existing symbolic order of counting. On the contrary, the ethical turn prioritizes "consensus": not a mere agreement, but the symbolic structuration of evacuating dissensus and reducing various peoples into a single people, the sum of the interests of a whole community (115). While everybody is to be counted here, the problem is that this inclusion deprives the excluded of their potential to be political subjects. The excluded exist as either mere vulnerable others for the community to grant rights in order to re-establish a social bond, or radically threatening others to reject in order to maintain the established bond. Human rights, then, are less politically pursued by dissident subjects than ethically assumed as either the absolute right of the victimized Other who should be saved through another party's humanitarian interference, or the self-protective right of this party's community to fight the fundamentalist Other who terrorizes it. Politics is therefore doubly ethicized: while the soft ethics of consensus on everyone's rights underlies the humanitarian community, the hard ethics of "infinite justice" is justified to defeat the "axis of evil" for the sake of security (116-17; 129-30).
We can trace these two ethical facets in view of the two decade-defining collapses that signaled the first two historical waves of globalization. The first collapse, that of the Berlin Wall in 1989, ignited the fall of the communist bloc and integrated hostile halves into one world. Globalization then emerged as the post-ideological Zeitgeist of the 1990s, driven by systems of inclusion: liberal democracy, transnational capitalism, network technology, and information industry. Cosmopolitan mobility and connectivity exponentially increased through cross-border departures and arrivals, free-trade imports and exports, massive immigration and emigration, quickening transportation and communication. The entire globe, as well as each nation, took similar steps to become a capitalist multicultural society including ever more racial, religious, sexual identities. This democratic harmony of cultural differences was pursued in the name of the Third Way that tried to reconcile socialism with the capitalist regime, not for economic Marxism but for the ethical values of diversity, tolerance, hospitality, and humanitarianism. 'Otherness" became worthy of absolute respect to be accorded to all relative others. Insofar as such others were included in a global community, they were ideally supposed to have 'global citizenship' as if it were a license, though not issued by any government, to access equal rights of universal education, health, and so forth. Human rights, a political goal hard to achieve, then began to partake of an ethical 'default value' that should be taken for granted. The victims of human rights violation became not the subject of political struggle so much as the object of ethical responsibility. Political activism was more and more motivated with left-liberal 'political correctness' that tended to translate political complexity into moral activities like charity and moral policies like affirmative action. Correctness as institutionalized morality in multicultural identity politics underlay the post-political soft ethics.
Nevertheless, the Third Way ethical socialism was still capitalistic, incorporating diverse others and cultures neoliberally into the global market if they were profitable, enjoyable, or exploitable as commodity, service, labor. That said, their genuine inconsumable otherness was filtered off, often fantasized as too excessive, dangerous, or fundamentalist to welcome. Some limits on admission to the World Interior, despite its empiric expansion, existed like a security check. Human rights were reappropriated here by global citizens as self-defensive power, the supreme right to not be harassed by others, and to even remove the others' rights if they were harmful or useless--even the right to smoke was to be globally banned for the public right to health. Inclusive systems of multicultural globalization generated symptoms of exclusion in this manner: illegal migrants, precarious workers, refugees and terrorists. Radical antagonism then occurred less and less between different yet integrated social groups, but more and more between whole global society and its remnants as either unqualified for global citizenship or resistant to the global order. On September 11, 2001, the world saw such antagonism hijacking the opening decade of the new millennium, causing the second historic collapse, that of the World Trade Center, which paradoxically revealed a new wall around the World Interior. Those suicidal Islamists seemed proof that "the iron curtain of ideology" was replaced with "the velvet curtain of culture." that the soft-ethical tolerance of diverse cultures as naturalized life-styles left no room for political negotiation with intolerable cultures but the "clash of civilizations" (Huntington 2011). In fact, there were not equivalent conflicting civilizations, but a handful of stateless guerillas attacked a single global civilization pervading most of the Islamic world as well, which thus backed the global war on terror. Global terrorism was like 'the return of the repressed' to the entire global regime, which in turn executed counterterrorism for self-protection. And both sides, drawing on religious fundamentalism, moralized their right to violence as sovereign, pseudo-divine justice against the evil other, only to end up stuck in a vicious cycle of retaliation. This harsh absolutism colored the post-political hard ethics as seen in post-911 films about terror and countertenor.
In sum, the political dissensus that prompts passions and actions for dialectic change has globally shifted to the soft-ethical consensus that promotes pity and compassion for others on the one hand, and the hard-ethical antagonism that provokes hate and apathy to others on the other. This double ethical turn underlies the age of globalization, its self-contradictory yet non-dialectic operation: the softer a global community is, the harder its security and threats to it are at once; the more inclusive and expansive it is, the more exclusive and explosive it is. For glorious globalization entails unavoidable byproducts, the excluded as exception to its universality who can strike back at its holistic system. And such risk, however locally triggered, is globally experienced in this networked world as seen in the domino effects of terrorism and also debt crises, computer viruses, nuclear disasters, and climate anomalies--the more connection, the more contagion. These global catastrophes indicate the impossibility of complete globalization, its inevitable inconsistency and failure of suturing disruptive symptoms.
Notably, recent economic crises have ruptured the capitalist euphoria from within the World Interior and caused complex socio-ethical repercussions. Cracks in Wall Street--another wall, one for the top 1%--devastated the bottom 99% upon the global financial meltdown in 2008. And a new worldwide free-for-all driven by neoliberal commerce has defoliated local industries and safety nets while accelerating polarization, unemployment, xenophobia, racism, anti-immigration, and hate crimes. A consequence was, as seen in Brexit and Trumpism. a weird fusion of far-right and far-left mindsets against the integrated regime of global capitalism right at the core of it. A new exception to the Whole emerged not among dark outsiders excluded from it, but among white insiders deprived of its benefits, the local losers of globalization, who then chose self-reclaiming self-exclusion from free trade and multicultural traffic. After the first historical wave of globalization in the 1990s and the second wave with global (counter)terror in the 2000s, the third wave is therefore featured by global factionalism in the 2010s. While the global system has still been growing--Wall Street bounced back without collapsing--it now sustains fractures by anti-centrist populism that tries to build a new wall between nations. Then, which wall to choose? This uncomfortable question indicates today's stalemate. Like France's 2017 presidential choice of central globalist Emmanuel Macron over extreme nationalist Marine Le Pen who beat the old rightists and leftists, the only alternative to the worst seems to remain in the status quo of the problematic-global order.
Post-political globalization indeed marks our civilizational direction hard to change with all its side effects. Of course political struggles still exist, and multiculturalism is often (re)claimed as postcolonial emancipatory pluralism in ways of debunking its alleged complicity in apolitical globalization and challenging "unthinking Eurocentrism" to bring a polycentric world (Shohat and Stam 1994). But as seen variously in identity politics, does such resistance to hegemony not eventually envision an ideal equal society, namely a soft-ethical Utopia? Political dissensus, if resolved consensually, inevitably brings the ethical turn of politics despite Ranciere's critique. Politics is oriented not against but toward the soft ethics in the end; it would otherwise turn into the hard ethics like terror. Likewise, radical events like the Occupy Movement, with no better world system entailed, make only a spasmodic impact on the current system that reinforces itself flexibly by absorbing dissident power. Direct democratic actions of anti-globalization by the "multitude." far from opening a way out of global "Empire" in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's terms (2000). utilize its intra-networks, thereby conversely helping Empire's readjustment to schizophrenic desires. Here are two flows of (post)political activity: the "sub-political" one by the decentered multitude's contingent participation in viral events, and the "hyper-political" one by the supranational Empire's institutional management of such events. These two correspond to globalizations "from below" and "from above" which co-operate for inclusive capitalism in effect (Beck 2013). Terrorism or factionalism would also end up as nothing more than a temporary break unless it develops into a paradigm-shifting revolution, which seems no longer possible in the post-political age. The end of the status quo then appears only fictionally in catastrophic imagination, and that is why. we will see, cinema matters.
Subjectivity, community, and abject agency
Now let's note that the ethical turn of politics reinforces the "biopolitical' mechanism of inclusion and exclusion. As political subjectivity is reduced to sociocultural identity endowed with soft-ethical rights, the boundary between citizens who have these rights and "subalterns' who are denied or deprived of them becomes all the more decisive. And it is on the latter that community exerts its hard-ethical sovereignty. Crucially, supreme sovereign power lies in suspending the rule of law if needed and creating the "state of exception." wherein one may be 'desubjectivized' without judicial process, not punished as criminal but expelled from the law itself and thus killed like an animal, a "bare life" or "homo sacer" as Giorgio Agamben (1998) says. Biopower works not only through Foucauldian apparatuses that subjugate people's bodies to the modern nation-state but primarily through this Agambenian sovereignty that can even throw these bodies out into a lawless state of nature. In truth, all nations transcend their normal law for the sake of security in a state of emergency that allows killing with impunity. Biopolitics in this sense has existed since long before the political utilization of modern biotechnology, just as bios meant "qualified life" in contrast with zoe as mere biological "naked life" in the polis of ancient Greece. And the fact that ethics originated in ethology--the study of ethos as the set of beliefs and behaviors associated with a community--suggests the relation of ethics with police (not politics), i.e. the governance of the communal order by power that can put subjects under or outside the law, as it were, in the soft or hard ethical way.
What matters is to historicize universal biopower from the perspective of globalization, or to 'biopoliticize' globally generated symptoms of exclusion. Various refugees, homeless diasporas, illegal migrants and even suicide bombers are evident symptoms, but a wide range of subjects in crisis also deserve attention: those who are abandoned, rejected, fired, or unemployed from their community--family, school, workplace, institution--and pushed to the edge of the global system. It is also significant that if biopolitical violence occurs typically in an exceptional situation like war or dictatorship, today's terrorist attacks turn normal subjects into homini sacri like a bolt out of the blue without technically excluding them but suddenly depriving them of self-reliance as if to make the norm and the exception indistinct. And once the war on terror is prolonged, the state of emergency is normalized to the extent that democracy and human rights are regulated on a daily basis, that surveillance technology and security checks pervade both private and public spaces, and that anyone is treated as a potential terrorist who may be proactively detected and detained under the neoconservative politics of fear (or just destroyed). No wonder Agamben asserts that "the camp" is "the nomos of the modern" from Auschwitz to Guantanamo Bay (166-80).
I propose to study this phenomenon of exclusion by revisiting the concept of abjection, the act of casting off or the state of being cast off as widely known through Julia Kristeva (1982)'s psychoanalysis; abject is thus used as both a verb and an adjective. Furthermore, as a noun, 'the abject' often refers to something disgusting or threatening like bodily fluids, detached organs, wastes and corpses, separated from the subject (and its cultural domain) for self- protection or ego-formation. The abject no longer belongs to the subject but is not an objective thing either, therefore lingering between subject and object, self and other, life and death. By extension, a subject as an individual can be an abject cast out of its core community just like those people listed above. This biopolitical abjection has been investigated in the recent revision and expansion of the concept. (1) Then, if global citizens are normal subjects with guaranteed rights, the abject are global 'non-citizens' bereft of soft-ethical protection and exposed to hard-ethical threats. The point is that the abject are not clearly identified as the lower classes so much as classless, and exploitable yet unqualified to be political subjects or blocked from being so. Community typically treats them with either soft-ethical pity and compassion or hard-ethical hatred and discrimination. And in the latter case, they are debased and stigmatized as heterogenous, unnecessary, repulsive or harmful, easily targeted by all sorts of sovereign violence from homophobia to genocide.
But more importantly, the ambivalent state of abjection implies its fluid nature with new potentialities for change. The abject differ from bare lives, social minorities or political victims thanks to their agency as the causative force and capacity to act. That is, agency is the abject's mode of subjectivity, temporary and transitional, yet also performative and modulable. And by activating it, the abject become the agent of a mission to fulfill, mainly for recovering lost subjectivity. So, the abject, symbolically dead, come back to their former community like the living dead, the 'undead' who never really die. However, this return does not always lead to resubjectivation (but often to physical death), or rather it aims at vengeance or destruction (even at their own cost). Not to mention military terrorists, now cyber terrorists showcase the abject striking back at their nation or network all the more internally just as programmers can turn into hackers. Similarly, professional 'agents' like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, by whistleblowing, undergo (self-)abjection from their sovereign 'agency' as an institution like the National Security Agency, and tight as exiled agents for cyber democracy while pursued as traitors. In short, there is a thin line between subject and abject, between 'sovereign agents' and 'abject agents' whose positions can easily turn over--abject agents also inappropriate sovereign power when attacking people or communities extralegally. Sovereignty and abjection interlock tightly in this way.
The implication is that even terroristic agents now cannot help using skills obtained within the global system, connecting to its media platforms, thereby acting on its immanent plane even as abject. The system allows no absolute outside or radical subversion. Tyler (2013) politicizes the abject compellingly as "revolting subjects" in some case studies, but the agency of revolt tends to disperse individually or dissipate like a collective relief of repressed desire without bringing a Utopian alternative to the status quo. Suffice it to recall the riots of suburban 'losers' in France, the UK, the US, etc. as well as larger movements including the Arab Spring. What haappens the day after is: the restoration of global capitalism and racism with more technocracy and apathy to manage such riots, or the change of a dictatorial regime into a worse, fundamentalist one. Of course, it is remarkable that the abjection of locals as in Gaza or even a photo of a Syrian baby refugee dead on the beach can attract global attention that goes viral like a butterfly effect through myriad social media, not because people around the world always look into local contexts but because they immediately share abjection and its agency for universal rights. Global networks indeed enable limitless connections and a new public sphere that is more flexible, irregular, amorphous than any existing community. Nevertheless, the "deterritorializing" force of networking does not revolutionize but revitalizes the global system of inclusion, the machine of "reterritorialization" as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987) would say. No community is independent of this system.
'Global community' should then be reviewed in terms of community and network that differ theoretically. Community forms closed vertical 'totality' in which all are organically structured with the transcendent desire for Utopian ideals oriented by an exceptional center of sovereignty, the big Other. But network embodies open horizontal 'infinity' because of its drive to endless connections which thus cannot demarcate all, yet leaves no outside since there is no center, boundary, or hierarchy. Then, back to the double ethical bind, the global community may be contradictorily redefined as a totalized network in that sovereignty and abjection are mechanized under various interfaces, common causes give way to addictive connections, and extremist violence of the abject erupts internally. The danger that this totalized network encounters is not just a manageable disaster. It should be called catastrophe, the uncontrollable overturning that takes on the Kantian sublime in two senses: on the one hand, endless connection is susceptible to 'immeasurable' contagious side effects, and on the other, the massive generation of the abject, their threatening return, and the system's counteraction are all entangled in 'insurmountable' violence. This catastrophe is often imagined to be stopped only through a bigger catastrophe, the "divine violence" of annihilation that ends the world.
Nonetheless, here is a turning point: we sometimes see unique solidarity formed among the abject in the middle of a catastrophe, which then works as a sort of positive event that opens new possibilities to reshape subjectivity and community in crisis. Even a temporary agora of the abject appears with a spontaneous agency of direct democracy which is impossible in reality. If not on such a scale, there can be a third way between communal totality and networked anarchy, an alternative ethics irreducible to institutional politics. It emerges when abjection brings liberation and creativity, while one becomes an existential gift. One can give one's abject being itself, retaining the potential sanctity of life to relay without return and closure. Often forming a contingent alternative family, this gift-giving makes a relationship of commonality without community, solidarity without unity, through immediate connection to the other's very abjectness beyond cultural mediation or identity labels. It opens non-utopian yet non-suicidal zigzag networking on the edge of the global regime. This is what could be called an atopian movement that continues without an anchor, through the precarious yet precious abject agency of embracing the unknown and walking side by side with the other. It is the movement of de-placing itself, abjected from the double ethical ideology of tolerance and violence.
Mapping frames of world cinema
Now, let me bring cinema in this context, namely global cinema. Undoubtedly cinema is the most synthetic cultural platform where all the issues above can be concretized or allegorized in existential settings realistically and imaginatively, sensationally and philosophically. But just as usages of 'global' have been trendy yet vague, global cinema is a popular yet unformulated term, often referring to Hollywood blockbusters or simply equated with 'world cinema' as such these days. Then, it may be vital to ask how world cinema is addressed and then related to global cinema and if they imply different notions. In fact, world cinema has never meant the neutral totality of all films made in the world. Dudley Andrew (2010) even refers it to just one of the historical phases: the cosmopolitan phase (1895-1918) when early cinema spread over the world as a new medium, the national phase (-1945) when classical cinema was established in each nation-state, the federated phase (-1968) when Him festivals and the French New Wave had international influences, the world cinema phase (-1989) when New Waves hit not only western but largely ignored non-western countries, and the global phase (-present) when 'film' is replaced by digital spectacles that are consumed everywhere simultaneously. Inspired by this periodization, I suggest identifying mapping frames of world cinema rather than its hisory. World cinema is not gone as a phase but always growing as an audiovisual corpus while differently approached in different historical, geopolitical, cultural conditions. Thus, the following frames are not about world cinema but world cinema studies. (2)
First of all, in the most common and still dominant national frame, world cinema appears as a world map of national cinemas like Italian cinema and Korean cinema. And each national cinema is studied in a broad sense of cinematic ethnography referring to each nation's sociopolitical history, collective memory, and cultural contexts (Nowell-Smith 1997; Hjort and Mackenzie 2000; Hill et al. 2000; Chaudhuri 2005; Badley, Palmer, and Schneider 2006; Vitali and Willemen 2008; Nochimson 2010). The implication is that cinema plays a substantial role in building the imagery of a nation as an imagined community while becoming a national cinema, consisting of selected films and their intertextual "coherencies or symptoms" in style, content, narrative, character, background, and so forth (Rosen 1984). But it is the State, the legitimate agency of/over the nation, that institutionalizes national cinema, just as the government supports it against hegemonic Hollywood in many countries. Likewise, national cinema exists not only culturally as text or art, but also economically for production, exhibition, and consumption. And its unique autonomy emerges in two paradoxical ways as Andrew Higson (1989; 2000) suggests: in terms of outward-looking comparison, a national cinema tries to differ from other national cinemas, but often adopts the international standard of Hollywood filmmaking; in terms of inward-looking connection, it represents national culture in established fashion to the extent that nationhood, albeit constructed so, is passed off as natural. Nationalism is born in this way. naturalizing national identity and its boundary while (unconsciously) excluding heterogeneous elements. "Nationalist cinema," if not national cinema at large, performs this rightist repression of complexity (Willemen 1994). But it is such essentialism that constructivism debunks; there is no natural nation but only cultural production, and subjectivity, individual or national, is constituted in the system of power and knowledge (Hayward 2000).
For this reason, the transnational frame emphasizes difference and otherness excluded from national identity and sameness. It could apply to the aforesaid "federated" and "world cinema" phases on two levels. First, it works to map the New Wave phenomena, aesthetic or political movements of marginal, dissident, artistic filmmaking across different national cinemas, and phenomena of leftist 'internationalism' as seen in Third Cinema against neocolonial capitalism (Nowell-Smith 2008; Betz 2009; Guneratne and Dissanayake 2003). Second, recent usages of the term 'transnational' imply the shift of ideological internationalism to deconstructive postcolonialism, but also more broadly, economic formations beyond nations, geopolitical regions sharing a cultural heritage, cosmopolitan nomadism and hybridity. postindustrial and cyber spaces, and so on. For example. European cinema is addressed as a whole from the supranational, translocal EU perspective (Gait 2006; Rivi 2016; Bergfelder 2005). Here or elsewhere, transnational are both the top-down globalization driven by neoliberal corporations and the bottom-up transculturation of counter-hegemonic minorities. While the former concerns the film industry including production and reception, film policies and festivals, transfers and exchanges of national cinemas and capital, the latter concerns identity politics of fragmented groups, polyphonic representations and cultural differences, directors' and characters' migration, diaspora, exile. (Ezra and Rowden 2006; Dennison and Lim 2006; Durovicova and Newman 2010; Higbee and Lim 2010; Hjort 2010). In both cases, however, the point is that the transnational does not purely negate the national, but respects yet transcends it. Multilayered heterogeneity within a nation is as important as borderless dynamism among nations in and beyond a region. Arab migrants' 'beur cinema' in France, supranational pan-Chinese cinemas including Hong Kong's and Taiwan's, and such hybrids of Hollywood and local cinemas as Bollywood and Nollywood are all equally transnational beyond Third-Worldism.
Nonetheless, the 'world' in these frames has been divisive rather than integrative. It has often been approached through the recognition and passion for the 'others' of the world's cinematic empire, Hollywood, which in turn assumes American exceptionalism. American cinema, though central to the cinema world, is not seen as part of world cinema. International film festivals have played the role of screen Olympics to stage all the 'rest' of the world as artistic, auteuristic, peripheral, postcolonial, or simply different from the missing center of Hollywood. Many scholars share this view of world cinema as a political alternative to Hollywood. Yet as ever more cinematic 'subalterns' speak out with their distinct identities, this Olympic stadium has been displaying equivalent but exoticized, strange but benign minorities like world music or ethnic cuisine in metropolitan markets. World cinema then appears as a rainbow community of multicultural differences while its neoliberal implications are embedded at the empty center, which is accepted by film curators and researchers even unawares. Likewise, this inclusive cosmopolitanism has underlain the representation of the world in Hollywood that opens multiple access points to the world market by incorporating national, racial, cultural diversity (Elsaesser 2012). Consequently, world cinema outside Hollywood and the world in Hollywood cinema share some 'soft-ethical' tendency despite their seemingly "political' opposition. Both, therefore, reflect the post-political paradigm of globalization.
To be sure, the Manichean dichotomy between 'bad' normative Hollywood and the 'good' alternative rest neglects their hybridity. But conversely, to view world cinema as "polycentric" including Hollywood as "just another other" cinema might reinforce the UN-style multiculturalism in "planetary consciousness" when this large neutral position is taken as a backlash against the politically charged postcolonial theory (Nagib, Perriam, and Dudrah 2012; Pratt 2010). The thing is that politicized cultural studies and critical 'post-' discourses have been the core of the transnational frame, centering on the old question of identity formation and representation to criticize bias or discrimination and promote diversity or pluralism. This approach is valid insofar as the power hierarchy remains between the First and the Third worlds, the West and the East, and the North and the South (Shohat and Stam 1994; 2003). And yet in this frame, new issues regarding today's globalized world and which are more comprehensive or fundamental than cultural identity might not be aptly and deftly detected. For the global milieu of unprecedented trade, traffic, technology, as well as catastrophic risks--political, economic, or environmental--directly condition and impact local life without being necessarily mediated through the national/transnational dyad that is still based on the unit of nation. Indeed, if internationalism or transnationalism derive from state-centric discourses, globalization involves "non place-specific processes" that change local places while its central system of neoliberal capitalism enables diverse cultural operations and entails instabilities and inequalities at once (Wagner 2015).
Therefore some 'urgency of now' emerges to update the transnational frame on the new horizon of global-local relations reflected or refracted both 'in and outside' Hollywood, without recourse to reductive 'apolitical polycentrism.' I propose a global frame of world cinema in this context. It brings into relief not territorialized homogeneity or deterritorializing heterogeneity, but the reterritorialization of transnational forces onto the immanent plane of globalization and its antinomies, i.e., a new universality and its cracks. For globalization has reunited a polycentric world into a 'totalized network' that has endless connections and crises we experience more or less universally. This global frame hosts neither a world tour of distinct or even ghettoized national cinemas, nor a transnational display of geopolitical and cultural exchanges, but critical engagement with global phenomena that contemporary films reveal or portray even in localized narrative space. And the fundamental backdrop is post-political double ethics, as the antagonism between the 'soft-ethical' systems of inclusion and the 'hard- ethical' symptoms of exclusion brings critical challenges to individual and collective life, subjectivity and community. Global cinema is thus characterized as world cinema framed anew, thematically embodying today's globalism with its inconsistency. It often allegorizes the political impossibility of Utopian change in various modes of catastrophe and nihilism, indicating the failure of imagining a better world system. Yet some films suggest a new possibility of ethics when abject figures, deprived of subjectivity and rights, become contingent agents of existential gift-giving, common without community. Here, abjection implies both the biopolitical mode of bare life and its ethical potential for the agency that opens 'atopian' if not Utopian networking beyond the problematic of 'soft/hard' ethics of pity and hate.
In this global frame, a sort of 'global narrative' with the motif of 'double death' is identified: the abject as symbolically dead struggle for lost subjectivity or new agency until dying physically. Abject agency is then activated in various modes--sovereign, terroristic, gift-giving, etc.--while drawing our attention to such issues as multiculturalism. fundamentalism, law, violence, catastrophe, community, network. Utopia, and gift. We can investigate these with critical theory while testing and revamping it in light of concrete existential situations depicted on screen. And we can explore films comparatively as representing less essentialist particularities than compatible localities. Indeed, the narrative of double death pervades global cinema from Hollywood blockbusters and European art films to Middle Eastern dramas and Asian genre films. Locality then functions not as the basis of identity referring to a unique reality which both resists and requires the endorsement of a center, but as a contingent springboard for embodying a concrete universality of the world system including the very center. This is why Hollywood should be viewed as part of world cinema, which in turn should not be featured as marginal or exotic. Likewise, postcolonial emphasis on exilic subjectivity and ethics as in the "accented cinema" (Nancy 2001) could be reviewed in global terms of abjection and agency. Thanks to powerful visuality, world cinema globalizes locality much more vividly than world literature and enables its studies not to be entrapped in the logic of difference and the difficulty of its translation. We could thus 'go global' by recharging identity politics rooted in class, gender, racial differences with a new theorization of global subjectivity and community.
Global Cinema in East Asia
Admittedly, there can be global frames other than mine. Some recent books on world cinema survey it through a specific theoretical lens, for instance, Deleuzian or realist, which offers a kind of global frame beyond the transnational one, not limited to the age of globalization (Martin-Jones 2011; Nagib 2011). Other notable books illuminate contemporary films with heated subjects such as globalization and terror (Chaudhuri 2014; Kapur and Wagner 2013). Also, ever more monographs and textbooks include "global" in their (sub)titles, expanding 'global cinema' as a held (Hjort 2005; Gait and Schoonover 2010; Sinha and McSweeney 2012; Costanzo 2014; Stafford 2014). But although the term is mentioned here and there, its nature and scope tend to be somewhat arbitrary or ambiguous like 'world cinema,' involving a random variety of films around the topic of art, memory, genre, or industry. Against this background, while the industrial base of film culture and technology should be noted wherever vital, I suggest focussing on the thematic superstructure of biopolitical and ethical concerns on the post-political ground of troubled globalization.
It is in this global frame that this special issue of Studies in the Humanities is subtitled "Global East Asian Cinema: Abjection and Agency," with its Asian identity taking on a sort of compatible locality that is not entirely confined in Asian particularity. Again, locality is less the essentialist mark of a specific time-space than a contingent platform for global peiformativity. In East Asia too, traditional communities give way to permeable, malleable networks, and subjectivity as fixed identity changes into agency for adaptable modulation. 'Global East Asian cinema' could then be termed as a form of critical address of global issues and their impact on subjectivity and community as reflected or allegorized in the East Asian context. Abjection is our keyword; once characters lose their sociopolitical subjectivity by being cast out of their community (symbolic death), they struggle to regain their original identity or gain new subjectivity (until real death). The abject between these two deaths become agents in the sense of acting to fulfill a mission which can be not only a homecoming but also revenge or a terroristic attack, sacrifice or a gift- giving of themselves. This narrative arc underlies many films with the motifs of journey, migration, bare life, coming-of-age, midlife crisis, secret agency, networking, and cyborg, more or less resonating with global conditions of connected yet vulnerable life. Notable are films about disasters, natural or industrial, from earthquake and tsunami to zombification and nuclear crisis, since they often symptomatize a political deadlock of the current global world and the impossible Utopian change in various forms of catastrophic imagination. But catastrophe can also reveal an alternative direction of ethics irreducible to politics when the biopolitical abject perform the agency of making new relations based on common abjecthood itself even with no community. Abject agency, through concrete films, would then challenge commonsense global ethics on tolerance and pity or hate and violence, opening room for networking on the edge of the global system beyond the problematic of 'soft/hard' ethics.
This special issue focuses mostly on narrative features made in East Asia after 2000 that are to some extent globally circulating or available in the mainstream market, on the festival circuit, and in the independent movement regardless of genre and style. These films can thus be grouped roughly in three categories--major cinema, auteur cinema, and minor cinema--as parts of a global cinematic system mirroring the global system as such. The entire collection showcases, as it were, a small matrix of global East Asian cinema with unconscious symptoms, political dilemmas and ethical potentialities; the features that 1 elsewhere related to current film authorship (Jeong and Szaniawski 2016).
As far as the category of major cinema is concerned, Min Yang draws attention to Chinese neo-spy films since 2009 such as Gao Qunshu's blockbuster The Message, Zhao Baogang's One Step Away and Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain, after tracing the history of the spy genre in the communist age of China. Yang's approach to contemporary China's post-socialist identity through the figure of the spy as the agent of abjection brings a timely case study of the genre in which the notion of agent is concretized into a profession and that of agency into an institution. Felicia Chan examines the recent boom of arthouse/crossover martial arts film driven by global Chinese auteur films such as Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster and Hon Hsiao-Hsien's The Assassin. Looking at the genre's narrative of abjection and agency. Chan argues that this trend reclaims a kind of cultural 'Chineseness' in the wake of China's rise as a global economic power, thereby asking us to review these auteurs' local and national politics in the global frame of industrialized cultural production. Seung-hoon Jeong maps both major and auteur South Korean films along two East Asian transnational networks of capital appearing in narrative space. The North-West network over North Korean. Russia, and Northeast China depicts refugees or migrants whose mission for survival renders them enslaved and abandoned like dogs, and the South-East network over Japan. Shanghai/Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia stages professional outlaws like thieves as agents of neoliberal desires. These "dog' and 'thief figures represent the global division between those circulated by capital and those circulating capital.
For more auteur-centered analyses, first, Steve Choe scrutinizes Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden. According to Choe, the South Korean auteur's first period-set film further develops themes around ethics and moral judgment raised in his previous "Vengeance Trilogy." positing that the state of abjection constitutes a necessary precondition for moral judgment. Park's "critique of judgment" then engages in the problem of subjectivization and the manner in which it acquires the legitimacy to accuse another of moral deficiency, performing a unique case of cinematic agency. Likewise, Haihong Li claims that Tsui Hark's Detective Dee series, set in the Tang empire, engage in contemporary China's discussion on globalization, terrorism, abjection, and resistance. These adventure fantasy mystery films are allegorically revisited in terms of how globalization gives rise to the fear of the other, how the fear turns the victim into the perpetrator, how the abject is produced while subjectivity is denied by institutions, and how the abject reclaim subjectivity while the border between abject and subject disintegrates. Focusing on Kitano Takeshi's Outrage and Beyond Outrage, Se Young Kim examines this gangster series of the Japanese auteur not only in light of the Yakuza cinema but also through a prototypical biopolitical lens. Kim reveals the inseparable relationship between the yakuza sovereignty and abject exclusion, but critically points out there is a shift in Takeshi from a deconstructive critique of Yakuza biopolitics to a conservative recovery of Yakuza sentiment. Hyon Joo Yoo compares Park Chan-wook's Thirst and Jia Zhangke's Still Life in terms of the cartography of the abject nation. While the former adapts the vampire genre to modern Korea with the issues of gender and sexuality, the latter offers a realist critique of China's globalization. But both share social contradictions in the region that undergoes the geopolitical dynamics of modernity and global capitalism, especially the destruction of any material or symbolic guarantee for the national subject that the modern sovereign state advertises.
Last but not least, what can be called minor cinema is richly explored. Lindsay Nelson introduces Akio Nanki's short horror NEET of the Living Dead that uniquely captures hikikomori, Japan's loners who withdraw from social life in the mode of "Not currently engaged in Employment, Education, or Training" (i.e., NEET). The him stages the double abjection of the hikikomori and the zombie in a globalized world predicated on rapid movement and an "eat or be eaten" mentality. Against the backdrop of a hyper-consumerist, high-pressure Japan. Nelson argues, a useless, impotent hikikomori in the film becomes a zombie in the way of embodying both purpose and agency, no longer remaining a functioning member of society. William Brown spotlights a Filipino experimental him, Khavn de la Cruz's Ruined Heart. Brown views the film as a "non-film" that constitutes a cinematic form of "conscientious abjection." It reflects the condition of migrants and the abject nature of the Philippines in today's neoliberal world, and its chaotic punk aesthetic challenges global festival films in a "chaosmopolitan" manner that is open to different temporalities and rhythms. Adopting indigenous, digital. DIY-style practices, this "non-cinema" appears as institutionally excluded, yet globally proliferating--in a sense, the 'abject cinema' per se. Victor Fan maps Chinese independent film and art making, scrutinizing Huang Wenhai. a journalist-turned-filmmaker who has lived in exile in Hong Kong after his film Wo'men, a documentary about political dissidents, put him into trouble. The key point is the "gaze of the exile" that the abject director casts and his struggle with deinidividuation and desubjectivization. Fan also analyzes Ying Liang's I Have Nothing to Say, suggesting the constitution of a new kind of humanity through an alternative or extraterritorial kinship. Finally. Tze-lan D. Sang surveys the contemporary documentary scene in Taiwan that has benefited from women filmmakers' remarkable creative energy. Wuna Wu's Her Farewell 1999 and Let's Fall in Love preeminently jettison the notion of identity and highlight performativity by using participatory and reflexive documentary modes and emphasizing the agency of healing and affective bonding after encountering trauma and abjection. Sang also introduces other notable works including Hui-chen Huang's Small Talk.
I express my sincere gratitude to all the contributors for their hard work and insightful papers and the journal editor Reena Dube for her generous invitation and incredible patience. Without their constant passion and support, this special issue could not have come out at all. It will be my greatest pleasure if readers find here some new windows opening to the contemporary East Asian cinema as an exciting part of global cinema.
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(1) Kristeva's influence has been widespread in the humanities (see Fletcher and Benjamin 1990; Lotringer 2002: Reader 2006; and Arya 2014 for a recent overview) and in '"Abject art" (Houser et al. 1993; Foster et al. 1994: Krauss 1996). In film studies. Barbara Creed (1993) and Carol Clover (1993) both sharply critiqued the misogynistic tropes of the "monstrous-feminine" and the "final girl" in horror cinema in terms of abject female bodies. But 'abjection criticism' also involves its own critical turns. Tina Chanter (2008, 6-23) claims that it tends to fetishize the abject 'others.' including the maternal body, as primitive, animalistic and ugly, thereby reifying hegemonic sexist or racist categories despite the critics' feminist, liberal stance. Thomas Elsaesser (2018, 129-61) draws attention away from the "substantive" abject provoking material disgust to "structural" abjection as radical rupture and disorder. Notably, the first theoretical usage of abjection appears in Georges Bataille's short essay on "the miserable" (2002): "the wretched population, exploited for production and cut off from life" no longer causes pity but aversion. They are the rabble as a classless class that is required by the system but not represented in it. thus included through their exclusion. Recently. Imogen Tyler (2013) impressively updates this sociological approach to biopolitical abjection. She takes an emphatic cultural studies position by proposing a "situated psychoanalysis" of politicized abjection, focusing not on universal law, but on norms forged through cultivated practices and mediated performances in concrete contexts (35-38).
(2) For Andrew, the world implies variety while the global a homogeneous entirely; world films promote the distinctive complexity of their place of origin, but global films entertain audiences everywhere, with remakes and byproducts converting all currency into a single value. From a different angle to note, he also proposes "an atlas of world cinema" (2006) including its political, demographic, linguistic, orientation, and topographical maps. In my terms I will soon explain, briefly, the political map works in the 'national frame' whereas the rest in the 'transnational frame." I intend to add a "global frame."
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|Publication:||Studies in the Humanities|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2019|
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