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Journey to the West: An inquiry into Chinese cinema studies as a field of struggles over cultural capital

Chan, Hiu Man 2019. Journey to the West: An inquiry into Chinese cinema studies as a field of struggles over cultural capital. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

It has been acknowledged by scholars that there has been a theoretical and hierarchical tension between Chinese cinema studies and film studies in English, but such a tension has not yet been addressed at length. While many would argue that the establishment of the field of Chinese cinema studies in English is a reaction to the so-called ‘Euro-American paradigm’ in film studies, there is a gap of knowledge in exploring the reasons, the processes and results regarding such a tension. This thesis wishes to address this gap of knowledge and thus asks: ‘to what extent does Chinese cinema studies in English-language academia exemplify a field of discursive struggles over cultural capital?’ It turns to Bourdieu’s (1993) theory ‘field’ to establish a conceptual framework to explore possible answers. The investigation focuses on the ‘relational’ aspect between (and in) both the field of film studies and Chinese cinema studies, throughout their professionalisation. Furthermore, within this framework, it applies Bourdieu’s notion of ‘cultural capital’ as a tool to investigate the organisation and distribution of discourses that have been shaping different research interests and agendas in both fields of studies. Enabled by a primary method of archival research, this thesis locates evidence that documents the processes of initial knowledge production as discourses making. It demonstrates, through a field analysis of materials such as scholarly publications, newspaper articles and meeting minutes, how different theoretical positions and linguistic strategies in a specific field context exerted influence on each other to obtain academic recognition. This thesis discovers three main problematics which exemplify Chinese cinema studies in English as a field of struggles over cultural capital. The first refers to how Chinese cinema as a research topic was not included in the main debates contributing to the professionalisation of film studies between the 1950s to the 1970s; it conducts a field analysis of the ‘discourse of film as a discipline’, the ‘discourse of film as art’, the ‘discourse of film as signification’ and 7 questions how Chinese films were not considered as a relevant topic in support of these major debates by film scholars during this period. The second problematic refers to the continuously marginalised position of Chinese cinema as a research area in film studies between the 1960s and 1990s, where findings expose the lack of recognition of both scholarly and public attempts to further integrate the topic to academic discussions. The final problematic refers to how the rise of Chinese cinema studies as a new field in the 1990s was legitimised by the incorporation of a semi- ‘cultural studies’, where scholars also encountered struggles over different theoretical position-taking. Similar patterns as how film studies was professionalised also took place in the field of Chinese cinema studies. Three discourses have been identified in this thesis that shape the main interests of the field through theorising Chinese films as ‘territories’, ‘ethnicities’, ‘languages’ and ‘independent’. This thesis further investigates the making of each of these discourses as well as evaluates the current state of the academic field of Chinese cinema studies. Apart from presenting previously unavailable archival materials, the principal contribution of this thesis will be to theory-building. By rethinking the emergence of Chinese cinema studies in English-language academia critically, this thesis aims to establish basis for further enquiries. Proposed way forward is informed by Bourdieu’s concept of ‘field’ to make sense of the struggles over cultural capital, battles over position-takings in academic disciplines such as the case of Chinese cinema studies. In looking forward, the conclusion identifies concrete strategies for future work regarding the current issues facing the field of Chinese cinema studies, including those of the disconnection between academic studies and the film industry as well as the disconnection between scholarship produced in mainland China and in English. The conclusion also provides suggestions for solution to how these ongoing issues could be resolved or at least further critically examined in future research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 October 2019
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2019 09:51
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/126145

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