Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, Cinema and Media Studies, Claremont Colleges

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Film Studies, University of Southern California
Colonial Cinema Across Borders: Educational Film in Malaya and the British Empire (1920-1957)

My dissertation traces the relationship between educational film and the imperial project in British Malaya – currently Malaysia and Singapore. My timeframe begins in 1920 with the production of the first educational films in Malaya, and concludes in 1957 with Malaya's independence from colonial rule. Films produced by the Malayan government as well as by the colonial government in Britain sought to teach colonial subjects about the place of the colony in relation to the British Empire. During this period, ideas about using cinema for education in the colonies underwent shifts that underscored the changing texture of imperial rule globally. The establishment of film libraries and international film associations during the interwar years imagined a world where educational films could circulate freely. These developments in film policy reflected the turn towards a more decentralized British Empire in the 1920s, followed by the divestment of imperial territories altogether after WWII. Hence, although the context of my study is that of British Malaya, this dissertation is inseparable from a larger study of economic imperial internationalism between World War I and the "end" of empire. My research engages with underutilized archival sources and fieldwork methods uncommon to cinema studies to make new historical claims about the role of cinema in the management and construction of the Empire. It brings an understudied contextual examination of film in Malaya into conversation with larger shifts in the nature of empire and global economy. It discusses media and Islam in Southeast Asia, and its connections to modernity and national citizenship under colonial government. By connecting cinema history to an understanding of an emergent and changing sense of internationalism from the 1920s to the 1950s, this project will illuminate the highly influential ways in which visual media culture facilitated the transition from classical imperialism to global capitalism.