The Theory Complex: A History of Japanese Film Thought


ACLS Fellowship Program


East Asian Languages and Literatures, and Film and Media Studies

Named Award

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow named award


This project investigates the rich history of theoretical thinking about cinema in Japan and the issues it poses for theory. The existing canons of film theory have been overwhelmingly Eurocentric, even in Japan. The project fills in gaps in the canon by introducing new and profound thinkers. It also considers how Japanese theorists, understanding how the West has tended to monopolize theory, fell into a “theory complex,” in which they pursued sophisticated aesthetic and philosophical arguments about cinema, but could not bring themselves to call it theory. The result is a tradition of film thought that is not only original and incisive about cinema, but intensely self-reflective, thinking about theory at the same time it pursues theory.