Chapter

Circulating Empires

Brian Larkin

in Globalizing American Studies

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780226185064
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226185088 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226185088.003.0006
Circulating Empires

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Empire, the projection of political power across space, is a function of circulation. Imperial control organizes diverse territories into a hierarchical system that “resonates together” by placing into motion a ceaseless movement of persons, laws, administrative practices, commodities, texts, images, and religious orders. Understanding Empire depends on comprehending the diversity of these nodes of operation, while keeping in mind the system as a totality. The emergence of cinema represented the first great transnational communications structure dominated by the United States, and the anxious reaction it generated in the British Empire tells us much about shifts in imperial power and the nature of empires as circulatory systems. Cinema occupied a privileged role in the transformation of capital in the twentieth century and of the place of the United States in this new economy. This transformation was part of the emergence of a commodity culture in which forms of spectacle and representation took on economic as well as cultural significance. Cinema collapsed the distance between the metropolitan world and the colonial. The richness of cinema provided a visceral and profuse presentation of metropolitan Western life that bore a homology to the exhibition of colonial cultures in world's fairs.

Keywords: cinema; British empire; imperial control; colonial cultures; transnational communication

Chapter.  14089 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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