A Discourse of Devils: Representations of the Japanese in Chinese War Films after 1949

PhD defended at: 

University of Macau





This thesis will provide an account of and analyse representations of Japanese identity in and through a specific genre, that of the Chinese war film, in the period from the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to 2014. In terms of theory and methodology, it will use predominantly and rely on Foucault's work on discourse in order to carry out an analysis of the discourses, both spoken, written and visual, that are used in these films, and which in John Frow's words “are formative of the objects in the very act of speaking of them”. The discourses used in these Chinese war films constitute “a system of formation” of particular statements of and about guizi or “Japanese devils”, who are effectively produced, designated and narrationally located as the PRC's “perpetual” enemy.

The task of this thesis, more broadly, is to identify and analyse the background to, and the emergence, continuities, variations and moments of contestation, of nationalist discourses regarding the Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War. It will identify and analyse the emergence and “typification” of the guizi images, and consider their later valorizations, deviations and variations in close relation to the (different forms and stages of the) discursive formation of the Chinese nation in the period under study. This dissertation will describe and analyse a number of relevant films, divided chronologically into two categories: those produced during Mao’s socialist era, from 1949 to 1976; and those produced in the post-Mao era, from 1977 to 2014. This thesis will explore the configuration of nationalist discourses, Japanese images, narrative patterns and forms of characterization across the two periods, and consider their relation to the discursive formation of the Chinese state and to Chinese national identity.

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