American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-17-2017


This dissertation posits that four Asian filmmakers engage in “revealing reality” in unique but interconnected ways that employ innovative narrative and cinematic/visual techniques, including a direct address to the senses and an augmenting of their vision with fantasy or surrealism. My study argues that Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan), Jia Zhangke (China), Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand) mobilize this visual and narrative strategy to participate in debates about globalization and to comment on the state of their respective nations, the concept of the nation, and the transnational. The films of each artist are examined in detail; I investigate their stylistic choices and their works’ cultural significance on local and global terms in relation to critical theory, particularly postcolonial theory. The dissertation argues that these filmmakers’ works both constitute and conceive the transnational imaginary, the space within which border gnosis and subaltern pasts are produced. It counters arguments that one cannot posit cultural explanations for a filmmaker’s stylistic choices and argues that there is a way to read a filmmaker’s style and films as politically significant. Overall, the project posits film as an analytical tool, and employs interdisciplinary methods used by scholars in film or cultural and media studies who engage with these lenses and frames. By analyzing the technique and the political implications of several films by each filmmaker in a transnational context, it expands the boundaries of American Studies, charting a nexus of border gnosis, subaltern pasts, and the transnational imaginary. Together, this dissertation supports the argument that the varieties of realism developed throughout this region during this period have expanded the transnational imaginary and have contributed to discourse on globalization, postcolonialism, and the multicultural project. Each artist's modification or manipulation of the tenets or rules of realism are suited to their purpose and their aim to “reveal reality,” and this revelation is aimed at twin goals of beauty and political truth.




Realism, Nationalism, Postcolonialism, Globalization, Taiwanese Cinema, Chinese Cinema, Thai Cinema

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Rebecca Schreiber

Second Committee Member

Alyosha Goldstein

Third Committee Member

Susan Dever

Fourth Committee Member

Luisela Alvaray