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An Ethnography of the Hollywood and Hong Kong Media Industries

Sylvia J. Martin

Publication Date - 20 September 2016

ISBN: 9780190464462

256 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

Examines how media professionals handle the uncertainties and risks of media production in a globalizing world


How do media professionals handle the risks of film and television production given market uncertainties, fears of industrial decline, and increasing job insecurity? What does the work of creating spectacle on-screen amid volatile conditions off-screen mean to them? In Haunted: An Ethnography of the Hollywood and Hong Kong Media Industries, Sylvia J. Martin explores these questions about members of the highly commercial film and television industries of Hollywood and Hong Kong (the latter often referred to as the "Hollywood of the East"). Drawing on extensive multi-sited ethnographic research--including participant-observation as an extra in Hollywood and interviews with stunt workers in Hong Kong--Martin takes the readers onto studio lots and urban filming locations in Hollywood and Hong Kong to discover the haunting perils and pleasures of the filming process for media workers as they also grapple with broader social, economic, and political issues. Signaling a new turn in anthropology of media, this ethnography is not only a comparative study of the Hollywood and Hong Kong media industries but also an examination of the thematic and transnational connections between them. Through unexpected findings about engagement with religion and the supernatural in both industrial sites, Martin offers a unique perspective on risk and uncertainty for media labor and production studies.

Haunted is a volume in the ISSUES OF GLOBALIZATION: CASE STUDIES IN CONTEMPORARY ANTHROPOLOGY series, which examines the experiences of individual communities in our contemporary world. Each volume offers a brief and engaging exploration of a particular issue arising from globalization and its cultural, political, and economic effects on certain peoples or groups.

About the Author(s)

Sylvia J. Martin is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at The University of Hong Kong. Her work has been published in Visual Anthropology Review, Critical Studies in Media Communication, American Ethnologist (co-author), Society, and Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies.


"Ethnographically, the focus on actors is unique and very effective. This is a good book with a big potential audience."--Sherry B. Ortner, University of California-Los Angeles

"Martin's text is a delight. The material on filming, soul capture, ritual, and possession is incredible. This work certainly seems to be working with the anthropological state of the art in terms of combining themes and cultural domains most associated with small-scale communities and cultures with large global media culture. It is a timely, relevant, and exciting text."--Allan C. Dawson, Drew University

"Haunted is an excellent case study of how global forces--specifically global capitalism--influence local cultures. It addresses the local/global nexus in innovative ways: one of these ways is by looking at affective labor and how it contrasts with the demands of capitalism, creating tensions for media producers. It also illustrates the role of non-modern sociocultural forces that are beyond science, rationalization, and individualism, and how these affect production."- -Leila Rodriguez, University of Cincinnati

Table of Contents

    List of Illustrations

    "The End"
    The Risks of Filming Death
    Themes of the Book
    Framing: The Multisited and Multisighted
    Structure of the Book

    PART 1: The Assemblages of Spectacle

    Chapter 1: Contrasts, Commonalities, and Connections: Hollywood and Hong Kong
    Ideological Contrasts
    Industrial Overviews: Commonalities and Contrasts
    Media Assemblages: Joint Productions and Collaborations

    Chapter 2: The Production of Spectacle / The Spectacle of Production
    The Set
    "Who's the Chief?": Setwork and Authority
    Spectacle and the "Cinema of Attractions"
    The Reel Audience: Mediating in the Immediate
    The Spectacle of Attractions: Explosions, Wizardry, and Tricks
    Tensions Between Extra and Actors
    Sisyphean Efforts of the Subcontractor

    PART 2: Local Sets, Global Forces

    Chapter 3: Gambling, Striking, and Assemblage: Hollywood on (Its) Location
    Dollar Day
    Standard Instability
    Transnational Flows, Gender, and Race
    Hong Kong in Hollywood: Media Assemblage

    Chapter 4: The Death Narratives of Revitalization: Colonial Governance, China, and the Reconfiguration of the Hong Kong Film Industry
    The Death Narratives
    "King Kong in Hong Kong": The Specter of Return
    Industrial Decline
    Structural Causes of Decline
    Consequences of Decline


    Chapter 5: Of Ghosts and Gangsters: Capitalist Cultural Production and the Hong Kong Film Industry
    The Underworlds Emerge
    Performance, Payment, Possession
    The Spectral in the Spectacle: Constraints and Collaborations
    Gangsterism: Constraints and Collaborations
    Reciprocity and (Self) Censorship of Ghosts and Gangsters
    The Violence in Production: Possessive Power and Payments

    Chapter 6: Affective Labor: An Intersection of Performance and Possession
    Affective Labor
    Laboring Between Worlds
    Performance and Spirit Possession

    Chapter 7: Camera/Chimera: Setwork and the Ethics of Soul Capture
    A Spirited Camera: Protector or Provocateur?
    "Camera Ready": Transitions and Transformations

    Hong Kong

    References Cited

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