Over a decade in the making, my book Worldly Desires: Cosmopolitanism and Cinema in Hong Kong and Taiwan is now available from Edinburgh University Press. The book examines the role that cinema played in imagining Hong Kong and Taiwan’s place in the world from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Here’s the official book jacket description:
How does cinema imagine our place in the world? This book looks at the studios, films and policies that charted the transnational vision of Hong Kong and Taiwan, two places with an uneasy relationship to the idea of nationhood.
Examining the cultural, political and industrial overlaps between these cinemas – as well as the areas where they uniquely parallel each other – author Brian Hu brings together perspectives from cinema studies, Chinese studies and Asian American studies to show how culture is produced in the spaces between empires. With case studies of popular stars like Linda Lin Dai and Edison Chen, and spectacular genres like the Shaolin Temple cycle of martial arts films and the romantic melodramas of 1970s Taiwan, this book explores what it meant to be both cosmopolitan and Chinese in the second half of the twentieth century.
The greatest joy of writing the book was the archival research — delving into the dusty movie magazines at the Chinese Taipei Film Archive, watching VCDs of old melodramas and Shaolin films, re-discovering two generations of pop music — and discovering how outwardly thinking Hong Kong and Taiwan popular culture has always been. My argument that cosmopolitanism has been a dominant structure of feeling in Hong Kong and Taiwan during these decades breaks from other studies that have highlighted their local uniqueness and sovereignty, positions that are essential, especially given the specter of China. But what if we looked at Hong Kong and Taiwan together, separately from China in the usual “three Chinas” configuration of transnational Chinese cinema? What might we gather from the Sinophone sentiments of worldly desires that captured the imagination of post-war generations and those of their children?
Writing this book became, inevitably, a personal journey, one that maps my own family’s trajectory from Taiwan to America to something slipperier altogether, but held together by aspirations, anxieties, romances, awkwardness, and an excitement over the unknown.
Please tell your local library to order a copy! U.S. libraries can order from Oxford University Press. Non-U.S. libraries and universities can go directly to Edinburgh University Press. Or find it at Amazon. The book is currently only available in hardback and electronic editions.