By Michael Chenkin
Guo-Juin Hong is Andrew W. Mellon Associate Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies at Duke University. Hong has published articles on such topics as early Shanghai cinema, new Taiwan cinema, documentary film, and queer visual culture. His essay on colonial modernity in 1930s Shanghai was the winner of the 2009 Katherine Kovacs Essay Award, Honorable Mention, and his dissertation received the 2005 Dissertation of the Year Award, Honorable Mention, both by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Hong teaches courses on film theory and historiography, Chinese-language cinemas, melodrama, documentary, and visual culture.
Earlier this year Guo published Taiwan Cinema: A Contested Nation on Screen (Palgrave Macmillan). The book is described as “A groundbreaking study of Taiwan cinema, this is the first English language book that covers its entire history. Hong revises how Taiwan cinema is taught and studied by taking into account not only the auteurs of New Taiwan Cinema, but also the history of popular genre films before the 1980s. This work will be essential reading for students and scholars of Taiwan and Chinese-language cinemas and of great value to those interested in the larger context of East Asian cultural history as well as film and visual studies in general.”
dGF: Could you tell me a little about your present interests in Chinese language cinema. What are you concentrating on right now, and what do you have planned for the future?
GJH: My book came out in February of this year and it is the first and only full-length book in English language on Taiwan cinema that covers its entire history. In that book, I looked at the question of national cinema as the core problematic because of the unique status of Taiwan. After 400 years of colonial history, Taiwan seemed to straddle between the status of nation and non-nation. Questions of national cinema seem outdated because of all the discussion of the transnational and the global. However, I find that to be over-simplistic. Even though national cinema is a very problematic category, it is still deployed at all times for other minor cinemas in relation to Hollywood. I go through the history of Taiwan cinema and I locate different critical historical moments to test the questions of nation in cinema which is think is still a very productive historio-graphical exercise.
Now that it is done, I hope that it has opened up doors for people to continue paying attention to not only Chinese language cinemas in general, but also Taiwan cinema specifically because especially in English language study, Taiwan cinema before 1982 has always been neglected. It was a situation that didn’t get at least partially corrected until a year ago when I guest edited a special issue for the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, focusing on what we call the “missing years” between 1960 and 1980. Those years were obviously important to the history of Taiwan cinema but also I think it is an important part of the larger cultural history of East Asia. This is the work I have been concentrating on the last few years.
dGF: What about your newest projects?