This article revisits Miriam Hansen's theory of vernacular modernism by putting it in dialogue with wartime Chongqing propaganda film theory. Comparing key points of parallel between Hansen's dual interest in the linguistic and sensorial function of cinema and Chongqing propaganda film theory, Bao situates the latter in light of changing conditions for film production and exhibition in a wartime media ecology. She pursues how the propaganda fantasy of cinema as a vibratory medium and as a nonneutral, pervasive social milieu inherits historical conceptions of ether developed in Chinese political philosophy since its introduction in the mid-nineteenth century. In the end she teases out a new understanding of cinema as well as an alternative definition of the medium that suggests a new way for us to understand Hansen's investment in vernacular modernism and the stakes it involves.
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Weihong Bao; “A Vibrating Art in the Air”: Cinema, Ether, and Propaganda Film Theory in Wartime Chongqing. New German Critique 1 August 2014; 41 (2 (122)): 171–188. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2680837
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