Nostalgia and Self-exoticism as Tactics of Audience Engagement in Contemporary World Cinema27/06/18 → 29/06/18

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Conference paper at NECS Conference, Amsterdam
Despite being celebrated on the film festival circuit, much of world cinema regularly courts controversy for pandering to the tastes of Western critics and audiences by representing non-Western cultures as 'exotic' - with all the baggage this term entails. Non-Western filmmakers appropriate the tropes and generic conventions of metropolitan representation as tactics to garner prestigious awards and to engage metropolitan audiences. Scholars including Chow and Elsaesser have argued that world cinema represents a form of auto-ethnography that promotes 'self-exoticisation, in which the ethnic, the local or the regional expose themselves under the guise of self-expression, to the gaze of the benevolent other' (Elsaesser). Thus, in the contemporary cultural context in which alterity is a prized commodity, both world cinema and diasporic filmmakers have emerged as 'culture brokers mediating the global trade in "exotic" goods' (Huggan).
This paper examines a particular mode of exoticism which combines the spectacle of alluring alterity with an elegiac longing for an idealised past. Nostalgia is a prominent feature of exotic films, by far the majority of which are set in the past, reflecting exoticism's antithetical relationship to modernity. Drawing on Bongie's theorisation of 'exotic memories' and Rosaldo's concept of 'imperialist nostalgia', I will bring nostalgia and exoticism into dialogue with each other. Both are aesthetic practices 'intent on recovering "elsewhere" values "lost"' (Bongie) at specific historical junctures: the end of British colonial rule over India in Before the Rains (Sivan 2007) and Viceroy House (Chadha 2017) and the anxieties accompanying the handover of Hong Kong to China in the 1997 which are reflected in a nostalgia for 1960s Hong Kong in In the Mood for Love (Wong 2000). I will argue that exotic nostalgia films enable an outsider perspective that engages global and local audiences alike to desire a distant place or time as Other.
Period27 Jun 201829 Jun 2018
Event typeConference
LocationAmsterdam , NetherlandsShow on map


  • exoticism
  • cultural difference
  • transnational cinema
  • nostalgia film