The Circulation of Chinese Cinemas in the UK: Studies in Taste, Tastemaking and Film Cultures

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Fraser Elliott


This thesis has two interrelated research objectives. First, to understand the circulation of Chinese cinema in Britain through the cultural authorities and gatekeepers responsible for the canonisation of international film. Second, to use Chinese-language films as case studies through which to deconstruct and better understand the mechanisms that make up British film cultures and their tastemaking practices. English-language Chinese film studies has long been preoccupied with the semantic issue of how to define such a loaded and diverse concept as “Chinese cinema”, with investigations generally focusing on film form and production contexts. This thesis extends these studies to include considerations of the role played by film circulation, to observe how the parameters of these analyses and the films of their focus are defined in the first instance. This thesis traces the lineage of Chinese cinema as it has appeared in Britain's film cultures from 1954 through to 2014 when this project began. Taking emblematic moments of this history as case studies to anchor the investigation, each chapter contextualises the cultures into which Chinese-language films arrived. Using the sociological theories of Pierre Bourdieu and others, these investigations note how, in addition to their negotiation of international trends, domestic skirmishes for cultural authority within Britain have had significant effects on the perceived value of Chinese cinema. This thesis considers the various social, cultural, and class contexts that support Britain's key tastemakers in the circulation of Chinese cinema. It shows not only the ways modes of evaluation and film availability are cultivated through these contexts, but that the activities therein result also from, and curate, assumptions toward Chinese as a cultural, political and ethnic signifier. Those commanding the discourse around Chinese cinema in Britain have done so with conceptions about Chineseness that result from and contribute to domestic conflicts of taste, class and social standing. The inevitable intersections between film tastes and cultural assumptions have worked to curate a parochial definition of Chinese cinema that prioritises certain kinds of films at the expense of others, dependent more on the idiosyncrasies of British film cultures than the activities of Chinese film industries.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2018