This book traces the permutations of the affective medium in modern China as a way to rethink cinema as a material, aesthetic, and social medium deeply connected to the artificial production of affect central for the consolidation of media institutions and the formation of mass publics. I argue that affect, rather than something intrinsic to a private individual, was evoked and engineered as a sharable social experience through media technologies and their aesthetic interplay; in return, media institutions and the social agents involved became solidified. My inquiry traces the rise of mass-media culture in China from its flourishing in the 1910s to its increasing politicization in the 1930s, culminating in China’s participation in World War II. By investigating mass media’s engagement with colonization, urban consumption, and mechanized warfare, I trace the shift from commercial to political modernist and propagandist film and media culture. Placing my narrative end point at wartime propaganda, my project creates a critical genealogy of spectatorial affect to examine the affinity and tension between commercially and politically oriented mass culture and their particular promises and stakes.
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