Organized Panel Session
In his seminal study of mid-19th century American landscape photography, Joel Snyder coined the term “territorial photography” not only to stress the medium’s complicity in the colonists’ territorial expansion, but also to describe the territorial claim photographers made in the process, to the technique of scientific observation (Snyder 1994). My study explores the counterintuitive ways in which the same dual territorial claims structured the practices and the discourses of cine-amateurs in interwar Japan. In particular, I examine amateur travelogues shot by Japanese cine-amateurs in the colonial spaces of Korea, Taiwan, and Northeast China (Manchuria). Far from offering “localized microhistories” that resist national metanarratives (Zimmermann 2008), many of the surviving amateur travelogues subsume individual experiences under the standardized linear organization borrowed from railway PR films, which had the ambivalent effect of affirming the territorial vision of an interconnected empire while differentiating their privileged position, as skilled cine-amateurs, from that of untrained point-and-shooters or the immobile audience of PR films. Drawing on existing scholarship that has contextualized the rise of amateur cine-clubs in the uneven geography of the 1930s (Nata 2004, Tomita 2013), I will examine specialist magazines serving the amateur public sphere as artifacts that attest to the competing geographies, some emphasizing the cosmopolitan interconnection of cine-amateurs across the empire while others exposing the hierarchical Tokyo-centric organization of the empire. Ultimately, this study complicates the contemporary discourse of amateur media as a democratizing agent by highlighting the dynamic reorganization of social, geographic, and political relations that accompany the democratizing process.