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Phantasmagoric Manchukuo: Documentaries Produced by the South Manchurian Railway Company, 1932 – 1940

Phantasmagoric Manchukuo: Documentaries Produced by the South Manchurian Railway Company, 1932 –... This article examines a collection of documentary films produced by the South Manchurian Railway Company (Mantetsu) in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo as the first part of a broader study of films produced in and about Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s. Taking up a common description of these cinematic images as maboroshi (illusory, dreamlike, lost) and historical studies of Manchukuo as an “imagined empire,” I propose to read these films as part of a phantasmagoria that had enchanted various utopian fantasies, that obscured and contributed to harsh realities, and that has recently resurfaced as haunting memories. As the economic pillar of Japan's colonial expansion in Manchuria, Mantetsu laid the foundations of modern infrastructure in cities and later scattered thousands of agrarian settlers throughout the land, a process both heralded and documented in its film productions. If cinema found its technological double in the railway as quintessential apparatuses of modernity that reshaped experiences of space and time, then Mantetsu documentaries bring together not only cinema and railway but also dreams and realities, the familiar and the exotic, the mythical and the scientific, the “authentic” and the theatrical. This article seeks to do justice to their complexity and to go beyond Manichaean condemnations of these films as blatant propaganda or apolitical rehabilitations as autonomous works of art. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png positions asia critique Duke University Press

Phantasmagoric Manchukuo: Documentaries Produced by the South Manchurian Railway Company, 1932 – 1940

positions asia critique , Volume 22 (2) – Mar 31, 2014

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Duke Univ Press
ISSN
1067-9847
eISSN
1527-8271
DOI
10.1215/10679847-2413826
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article examines a collection of documentary films produced by the South Manchurian Railway Company (Mantetsu) in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo as the first part of a broader study of films produced in and about Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s. Taking up a common description of these cinematic images as maboroshi (illusory, dreamlike, lost) and historical studies of Manchukuo as an “imagined empire,” I propose to read these films as part of a phantasmagoria that had enchanted various utopian fantasies, that obscured and contributed to harsh realities, and that has recently resurfaced as haunting memories. As the economic pillar of Japan's colonial expansion in Manchuria, Mantetsu laid the foundations of modern infrastructure in cities and later scattered thousands of agrarian settlers throughout the land, a process both heralded and documented in its film productions. If cinema found its technological double in the railway as quintessential apparatuses of modernity that reshaped experiences of space and time, then Mantetsu documentaries bring together not only cinema and railway but also dreams and realities, the familiar and the exotic, the mythical and the scientific, the “authentic” and the theatrical. This article seeks to do justice to their complexity and to go beyond Manichaean condemnations of these films as blatant propaganda or apolitical rehabilitations as autonomous works of art.

Journal

positions asia critiqueDuke University Press

Published: Mar 31, 2014

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