The Embryo Hunts in Public: Eugenics, the Atomic Bomb, and the Politics of Visibility in Japan
Speaker: Chika Kinoshita
About the talk:
In the mid 1960s, fetal images emerged in the limelight in film and visual culture across national boundaries, from Lennart Nilsson’s photo essay “Drama of Life Before Birth” (LIFE, April 30, 1965) to the opening roll of Wakamatsu Kōji’s exploitation classic The Embryo Hunts in Secret (1966) and Stanley Kubrick’s famous Star Child at the close of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Engaging in dialogue with feminist critique of those fetal images, my presentation sheds new light on the cinematic formation of the fetal subject and its concomitant transformation of the maternal body into its environment in Japan. Specifically, I place them within the historical and geopolitical context of the late 1950s by analyzing Kamei Fumio’s anti-nuclear documentary The World Is Terrified (1957) as a complex and highly contentious mélange of eugenic thoughts, the discourse on motherhood, the Cold War politics, and montage aesthetics.
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About the speaker:
Kinoshita Chika is an associate professor of Film Studies at Kyoto University, Japan, and a 2019-2020 visiting scholar at Harvard-Yenching Institute. She is the author of an award-winning book, Mizoguchi Kenji: Aesthetics and Politics of the Film Medium (Hosei University Press, 2016, in Japanese), and currently completing a book manuscript titled A History of the Pregnancy Film that sheds light on a contested relationship between film and reproductive politics in Japan.