Research Seminar: Toward a Feminist Historiography of Horror Cinema

Dr Alison Peirse publishes a new paper on horror filmmaker Jackie Kong.

In this paper, I will explore the career of little­–known 1980s horror filmmaker Jackie Kong, as a way of critically revisiting our histories of horror cinema. My inspiration for this work is Jennifer M. Bean’s essay, ‘Toward a feminist historiography of early cinema’. For Bean, the discovery of women filmmakers is ‘inexorably bound to a series of questions concerning the production of historical and disciplinary knowledge’. She asks, ‘how can we assert the presence of female film pioneers without simply amalgamating a revised set of... remarkable “firsts”, of isolated, explanatory contributions?’ (2002: 2).

Bean’s question has much to offer not only those interested in the work of Kong, but also scholars of horror cinema, and women’s film history. I will ask, how do we create knowledge about our chosen period of study, and how might we do this in terms of the multifaceted identity and historical context of our chosen filmmakers? For example, in a Morbidly Beautiful interview, Kong revealed that in the 1980s, she faced ‘every possible obstacle, since I was a young woman of colour in a white, male-dominated field… They became confused by the gender and race issues I presented’ (Darko 2018). Bean suggests we have to find a way to move beyond a gender paradigm that ‘has never been comprehensive enough, never able to account for the production of whiteness or blackness – indeed of race of any kind – much less ethnicity, nationality, and the distinctions of class’ (2002: 2). How might we bring this pertinent critique to bear on the work that we do, both in horror cinema and in women’s film history?  

Dr Alison Peirse is an Associate Professor in the School of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. Her latest book, Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre (Rutgers UP, 2020) has been nominated for and won, multiple awards around the globe.