The Revival of Bangkok as a Chinese City: Cinema and Media

October 16, 2023 | 5:30PM - 7:30PM
Asian Institute, Southeast Asia Seminar Series, Southeast Asia

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The Deluxe™ Screening Room at Innis College, 2 Sussex Avenue, University of Toronto
Across Southeast Asia and East Asia real estate and hospitality ventures, cinema and new media, lifestyle brands, and wellness businesses currently draw on Chinese pasts and the aesthetics of colonial modernity as the privileged aesthetics of the good life. As film directors, hotels, bars, and clubs revive 1930s Shanghai and 1960s Hong Kong modernities—and exploit the materiality of Bangkok’s Chinese neighborhoods—this redeployment of (semi)colonial histories and urban pasts is emerging as the primary signifier of a desirable Asian cosmopolitanism but also as the grounds for political critique. Bangkok as a Chinese city stands at the center of these developments. Both nationally and internationally the city represents a paradigmatic site of fantasy that provides for a particular elasticity of place and time and, by extension, of personhood and belonging. This talk inquires into the ways that contemporary Thai films such as Happy Old Life (2019) and Bad Genius (2017) take part in this conversation.
Arnika Fuhrmann, Profesor of Asian Studies and Comparative Literature at Cornell University, is an interdisciplinary scholar of Southeast Asia working at the intersections of the region’s aesthetic, religious, and political modernities. She is the author of Ghostly Desires: Queer Sexuality and Vernacular Buddhism in Contemporary Thai Cinema (2016) and Teardrops of Time: Buddhist Aesthetics in the Poetry of Angkarn Kallayanapong (2020).
(Moderator) Elizabeth Wijaya, Director of the Southeast Asia Seminar Series at the Asian Institute, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Studies and the Cinema Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. Wijaya works at the intersection of cinema, philosophy, and area studies. She is especially interested in the material and symbolic entanglements between East Asia and Southeast Asia cinema. Her work emphasizes a multimethodological approach, which is attentive to media forms, ethnographic detail, material realities, archival practices, international networks, and interdisciplinary modes of theorization. 
Sponsors: Southeast Asia Seminar Series, Asian Institute
Co-Sponsor: Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Institute, and the Department of East Asian Studies
Asian Institute, Southeast Asia Seminar Series, Southeast Asia


Arnika Fuhrmann Headshot
Arnika Fuhrmann

Professor, Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University

Elizabeth Wijaya headshot
Elizabeth Wijaya

Director, Southeast Asia Seminar Series, Asian Institute
Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto
Assistant Professor, Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto