Southeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Screening Southeast Asia: Films and Politics during the Cold War

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Marigold, New Building

Using films as the primary analytical reference, I investigate what the dominant ideologies in popular cinematic products that circulated in the region illuminate concerning the broader cultural context, in general, and strategic cultures, in particular, of Southeast Asian states; how these films depict international realities following the Second World War, the Cold War and its major players (the United States, China, and, albeit to a lesser degree, the Soviet Union), and the role of the Malayan/Malaysian, Philippine, and Indonesian states in the battle between the communists and the anti-communists; how popular films and genres impinge on the corroboration or rejection of particular discourses dominant in Southeast Asian nation-building and foreign policy-making during the Cold War; and finally, how the strategic cultures of Southeast Asian states, which were captured in and influenced by the popular films produced by Southeast Asians themselves, shaped the outlook of key policy makers in dealing with and coming to terms with decolonization and Cold War realities in the region. 


I argue that Southeast Asian films advance a cultural narrative about anti-colonialism, independence, and nation-building that produced, affirmed, and reinforced the Southeast Asian strategic culture of non-alignment. The ideologies (re)created, negotiated, and embodied in Southeast Asian films, reflected and influenced the strategic cultures of Southeast Asian states. I further maintain that the strategic cultures not only shaped the perceptions of Southeast Asians concerning international affairs, they also affected the manner in which the peoples viewed themselves and others, and shaped their international behavior.

Darlene Machell De Leon Espena

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

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