China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: China’s massive police surveillance network, Skynet, has provoked discussion of imminent surveillance worldwide. While Skynet generates significant attention, scholarship rarely studies the nexus of technologies of policing, entertainment media, and Asian and Asian-American history. This panel makes the case that media should be understood through the tension between mass media and the disciplinary apparatus. The presentations investigate visual culture and social control from contemporary China to San Francisco Chinatown in the late 19th century. This approach illuminates urgent questions confronting us today as well as the long history of interpenetration between policing and cultural production. Foregrounding reverberations across the Pacific, this panel also provides a renewed vision of the relationship between policing and entertainment media beyond regional insularities. The three papers demonstrate how different media conspired with the policing apparatus to identify the racial other, discipline moral order, and regulate gender difference in a transnational context. Wasow shows that the collusion between early cinema and the carceral state converted policing the racial other into spectatorial pleasure and legitimized police power. Peng’s study of photography’s interaction with literature and police control addresses how the production of visual evidence for crime reinforces moral order in Republican China. Chen’s analysis of Dragonfly Eyes argues that the incorporation of forensic examination of surveillance images into film viewing practices exposes the gendered code of looking in contemporary China. Jointly, the three papers explore the entanglement between media and social control and demonstrate how this imbrication produced racial, moral, and gender legibility in a transnational context.
Virtual Paper Presenter: Althea Wasow – University of California, Santa Cruz
Virtual Paper Presenter: Wei Peng – New York University Shanghai
Virtual Paper Presenter: Jianqing Chen – Washington University in St Louis