Toward an "accented" critique of culture: Theorizing postcolonial East Asia

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Gregg Lambert


Postcolonial, Subjectivity, Masculinity, Korea, Japan, Taiwan

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Asian History | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | History


In this dissertation, I investigate how the construction of national subjectivity in East Asia is a process that unfolds in a colonial and postcolonial transnational sphere, and I articulate that sphere as what I call the third space of cultural critique. In order to produce that space I imagine a critical event in which the existing system of meaning and the mode of inquiry arrive at the point of aporia. Historical, ideological, and cultural effects of an East Asian context produce an aporetic moment in institutional postcolonial studies as their radical extraneous difference destabilizes conceptual boundaries and analytical methods. I find manifestations of those effects in specific local theaters--primarily South Korea as well as Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong--particularly in the way national cinemas mediate them. Tracing the formation of subjectivity mediated by the visuality of national cinema provides an opportunity to examine and question the applicability, transferability and transformability of existing critical paradigms of postcolonial studies in an East Asian context. It also enables the production of what I call the "extraneous difference" of the East Asian local paradigm and my own "accented" critique of postcolonial culture, emerging through my analysis of Korean cinema informed by local social histories. In order to foreground the extraneous difference, I formulate newly revised notions of subjectivity, nation, and the body, especially in what I define as "moribund masculinity." It is the kind of male subjectivity that refuses to fulfill the political, economic and ideological demand that is made by the nation-state and global capitalism. This masculine subjectivity subverts the notion of subjectivity that functions as the locus of consciousness involved in the production of identity. As such, it subverts the position of the Other in postcolonial theories, an identity that solidifies the subaltern body. The paradigm of the "accented" critique that I articulate is comparative and deconstructive in that I examine how local particularities place pressure on existing critical paradigms, and yet enable the production of a regional paradigm that changes the scope, as well as the language itself, of those paradigms.


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