Reading Formations and Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine
E. Ann Kaplan
Third World texts, even those which are seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamic -- necessarily project a political dimension in the form of national allegory.
Edward Said was prescient in pointing out the importance of theories circulating from one culture to another. In an essay titled "Traveling Theory" in The World, the Text, and the Critic, Said wrote:
Like people and schools of criticism, ideas and theories travel -- from person to person, from situation to situation, from one period to another.... There are particularly interesting cases of ideas and theories that move from one culture to another, as when so-called Eastern ideas about transcendence were imported into Europe.... Such movement to a new environment is never unimpeded. It necessarily involves processes of representation and institutionalization different from those at the point of origin. This complicates any account of the transplantation, transference, circulation, and commerce of theories and ideas.1
Since Said's essay was written, theories have traveled with increasing rapidity. This is partly because of the new global networking -- usefully analyzed by Arjun Appadurai in terms of a series of "scapes" that include mediascapes, financescapes, and ideascapes.2 Electronic mail, the Internet, CD-ROMS, as well as the increased frequency of literal international traveling by Eastern and Western theorists with their new ideas, has meant increasingly complex phenomena of "the transplantation, transference, circulation, and commerce of theories and ideas" that Said mentions.
Said's comments have relevance for the much-debated and now fraught issue Fredric Jameson raised of "national allegory" in "Third Cinema" versus "something else" in Western films. It is an issue that cannot be addressed outside consideration of the context within which Other World films are produced. As is obvious from the case of America, however, it is not necessary for film studios to be state-controlled for them to be ideologi-