Nadine Chan is assistant professor of cultural studies at Claremont Graduate University. Her areas of research and teaching include media historiography and theory, postcolonial and new empire studies, environmental humanities, media and the Anthropocene, visual studies, media anthropology, nontheatrical film, Global Asia, and Southeast Asian film and media. She received her PhD in cinema and media studies with a certificate in visual studies from the University of Southern California. Chan was a former Harper-Schmidt fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago and a Global Asia postdoctoral fellow at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Chan’s first book-in-progress, Cinema Under the Palms: Colonial Worldmaking in an Unruly Medium, conceptualizes film as an object that is animated by both colonial and counter-colonial energies. Through a study of colonial educational films in British Malaya and Singapore from the 1910s to its afterlives in the present day, it offers a theoretical and historiographical framework for the ontological entanglements between cinema and coloniality. While the book argues for a genealogy of cinema that locates its technologies, theories, and aesthetics as an extension of the logics and material practices of late colonial worldmaking practices, it also contends that with cinema’s slippages, opacities, and irrationalities, the medium lends itself to riotous counter-colonial possibilities.
Growing from her writing on worldmaking and colonialism’s unruly “extractive cinema” in her first book project, Chan’s second research project titled Documenting Friction in the Extractive Zone: Visualizing Ecological Milieus of Uncertainty and Loss investigates complexity theory in visual and data-driven representations of the Anthropocene. Critiquing the assumptions of linear temporalities and complete systems inherent in both the indexical technologies of film and photography as well as in the predictive modelling methods of environmental data science (apparent in practices such as weather forecasting), the book argues that the complex systems of the ecological environment demand representational forms where complexity is made apparent, rather than obscured. Bridging the field of media studies with the interdisciplinary field of complexity studies from mathematics and computational science, Chan argues for visualizing complexity as a productive mode of “counter-knowledge” that allows visual culture to come closer toward hermeneutically inhabiting ecological milieus of uncertainly and loss.
Chan has articles published in Journal of Environmental Media, Cinema Journal, Studies in Documentary Film, Periscope for Social Text, Spectator, and the anthology Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film. Her dissertation, “A Cinema Under the Palms: The Unruly Lives of Colonial Educational Film in British Malaya,” received an Award of Distinction for the 2017 Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Dissertation Prize and was a final shortlist for the 2017 International Convention for Asian Scholars (ICAS) Dissertation Prize. Her research has been supported by a Social Science Research Council Andrew W. Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship, a Global Asia Postdoctoral Fellowship (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), and other fellowships and grants.
A Cinema Under the Palms: Colonial Education in an Unruly Medium. Monograph in-progress.
Documenting Friction in the Extractive Zone: Visualizing Ecological Milieus of Uncertainty and Loss. Monograph in-progress.
“A Time-Lagged Medium: Colonial Documentary in British Malaya and the Asynchronous Reproducibility of Reality.” In Theorizing Colonial Cinema, edited by N. A. Kwon, et al. Indiana University Press, Forthcoming.
“Pandemic Temporalities: Distal Futurity and the Digital Capitalocene.” Journal of Environmental Media 1, no. 2 (2020).
“Aestheticizing Asian American Assimilation in the Learning Corporation of America’s Many Americans Series (1970-1982).” In Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film, edited by Marsha Gordon and Allyson Field. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019.
“Global Asia: A Critical Aesthetics Always in Search of Alternative Globalities.” Periscope feature on “Global Asia: Critical Aesthetics, Alternative Globalities.” Social Text, (2018).
“Making Ahmad ‘Problem Conscious’: Educational Cinema and the Rural Lecture Caravan in 1930s British Malaya.” Cinema Journal 55, no. 4 (2016).
“‘Remember the Empire, Filled with Your Cousins’: Poetic Exposition in the Documentaries of the Empire Marketing Board.” Studies in Documentary Film 7, no. 2 (2013): 105-18.
Media and the Environment
Introduction to Film and Media Theory
Durable Empires and Medias of Mass Culture: Theory and History
Durable Empires and Medias of Mass Culture: Praxis Advanced Writing Workshop
Advanced Writing Seminar