Teasers of Empire: 1930s Action-Adventure Trailers and the Spectacle of Imperialism: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Teasers of Empire: 1930s Action-Adventure Trailers and the Spectacle of Imperialism

Promotional Image of "Teasers of Empire"
7 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Thu May 26, 2022
7 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


Teasers of Empire

(Various artists; 1931 - 1940; 35mm, digital)


Teasers of Empire interweaves a selection of fifteen 35mm trailers from the Academy Film Archive with commentary by guest scholars to examine the connections between the Action-Adventure genre and the history of imperialism. Early sound films can help elucidate how Hollywood filmmaking practices and genre tropes developed in conjunction with dominant colonial narratives and audience tastes. Despite the technical mastery displayed by these films, screening them today presents a challenge given that many of them contain harmful stereotypes about minoritized peoples. Examining 1930s Action-Adventure trailers with this critical lens offers us an opportunity to study how the genre was shaped by borrowed colonial artistic and literary conventions that naturalized discourses of empire, conquest, and modernity, without reactivating the violence of screening the films in their entirety.


Ariel Rogers is an associate professor in the Department of Radio/Television/Film. Her research and teaching address the history and theory of cinema and related media, with a focus on movie technologies, new media, and spectatorship. She is the author of Cinematic Appeals: The Experience of New Movie Technologies (2013) and On the Screen: Displaying the Moving Image, 1926-1942 (2019), both published by Columbia University Press. Her work on topics such as widescreen cinema, digital cinema, special effects, screen technologies, and virtual reality has also appeared in edited collections and journals including Cinema Journal, Film History, montage AV, and Screen. 

Rochona Majumdar is a historian of modern India with a focus on Bengal. Her writings span histories of gender and sexuality, Indian cinema especially art cinema and film music, and modern Indian intellectual history. Majumdar also writes on postcolonial history and theory. Her interests in the culture and aesthetics of mass democracy led Majumdar to study cinema, in particular Indian cinema. Her third book Art Cinema and India's Forgotten Futures: Film and History in the Postcolony is an analysis of global art cinema in independent India. It is also a book about art cinema as a mode of doing history in a postcolonial setting.

Emily Lyon is a Northwestern University PhD Candidate in History. Her dissertation looks at white women’s role in sustaining US colonial power through their production of an imperial visual culture between 1870 and 1930. Her work brings together women photographers, mapmakers, travel writers, exhibition creators, and educators—or, visual culture producers—across different geographical sites of empire in the Pacific, Caribbean, and North American continent. It asks how white women’s production of the visual materials of empire, which would be consumed by Americans across the country, helped to sustain US imperial ambitions, (re)constructed white womanhood, extended imperial domesticity into new areas, and shaped the relationship between the colonized and colonizer.

Programmer and Moderator

Emmanuel Ramos-Barajas is a scholar, curator, and research-based image-maker who investigates the possession and consumption of land in US and Mexican art, cinema and visual culture. He is the co-creator of Unsettling Journeys, an educational YouTube channel dedicated to deconstructing Latinx identities through Art History. Currently, he is the Media and Communications Coordinator at The Block Museum. He graduated with a BA from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, and is currently completing an MFA at the University of Illinois, Chicago.


This program is part of Content Warning, an ongoing screening project by program curator Emmanuel Ramos-Barajas that aims to disrupt the hierarchies of the screen. This project contends with the responsibilities and implications of screening films with skewed spatial and racialized representations by re-contextualizing moving image arts in a longer history of imaging technologies and visual literacy. At a moment of cultural reckoning in regards to these issues, re-articulating film’s future possible forms is an urgent task.

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at block-museum@northwestern.edu