Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - A Colonial Framework for Media Industries: Inter-Media in Emergency Era British Malaya

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Chinar, First Floor

From the late 1940s to the late 1950s, the British colonial government in Malaya established a region-wide network of mobile film shows, theatrical and nontheatrical screenings, print journalism, and radio to address the people of Malaya in their local languages. Arising from a period of intense anti-colonial sentiment, communist activity, and a global push toward decolonization, the government saw media technologies as an effective mode of mass communication and public relations.


This paper focuses on the consolidation of multiple media outlets that took place under the colonial government during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). This period of intense integration of the production, distribution, and exhibition of public and educational media positioned the colonial state as a “media industry” in its own right. Moreover, inter-media flows of information between colonial film, radio, and print sought to create a networked, media literate citizen immersed in the cultural production of late colonial “democracy.”


At its broadest, this paper makes an argument for a colonial framework for media industry studies that take into account the interplay of media as both objects of governance as well as commodity forms. It takes up some of the central concerns of the field—inter-media convergence, consolidation, cultural production, audience response, and the need for interdisciplinary method—and considers how these questions may be expanded, refracted and reconstituted through the lens of an educational film at the end of empire.

Nadine Chan

University of Chicago, United States

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