Film provides a window into American culture and its attitudes toward Asia of the first half of the 20th century. The birth of cinema coincides with the beginnings of U.S. expansion overseas, and the classic Hollywood era coincides with the rise of the U.S. as a global superpower. In ""Envisioning Asia"", Jeanette Roan argues that throughout this period, the cinema's function as a form of virtual travel, coupled with its purported 'authenticity', served to advance America's shifting interests in Asia. Its ability to fulfill this imperial role depended, however, not only on the cinematic representations themselves but on the marketing of the films' production histories - and, in particular, their use of Asian locations. Roan demonstrates this point in relation to a wide range of productions, offering an engaging and useful survey of a largely neglected body of film. In addition, by focusing on the material practices involved in shooting films on location - that is, the actual travels, negotiations, and labor of making a film - she moves beyond formal analysis to produce a richly detailed history of American interests, attitudes, and cultural practices during the first half of the 20th century.
Jeanette Roan is Adjunct Professor of Visual Studies at California College of the Arts and author of ""Exotic Explorations: Travels to Asia and the Pacific in Early Cinema"" in Re/collecting Early Asian America: Essays in Cultural History.