Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Turbulence: Pontianak theory - Malay horror and postcolonial aesthetics

21 May 2019, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm

Rosalind Galt

We are delighted to welcome Professor Rosalind Galt for this talk on ‘Pontianak theory: Malay horror and postcolonial aesthetics’. Discussant: Dr Lucy Bolton (QMUL).

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Lucy Bollington


IAS Forum
Ground floor, South Wing, UCL
United Kingdom

The pontianak is one of the most popular supernatural creatures, or hantu, in Malay cinema; a female vampire who has died as a result of male violence or childbirth and who returns to haunt patriarchy. A staple of the Singapore-based studio films of the late colonial era, the pontianak was banned in postcolonial Malaysia as un-Islamic. When the censorship of horrific and supernatural themes in cinema loosened in the 2000s, a new wave of pontianak films emerged in which this terrifying figure of female agency troubles both normativities of gender and presiding narratives of postcolonial national identity. This talk will consider the pontianak as a figure of historical turbulence and will explore the relationship between horror film, gender, and postcolonial aesthetics.


Rosalind Galt is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. She is the author of Queer Cinema in the World, co-authored with Karl Schoonover (Duke UP, 2016), Pretty: Film and the Decorative Image (Columbia UP, 2010), and The New European Cinema: Redrawing the Map (Columbia UP, 2006), as well as coeditor of Global Art Cinema (Oxford UP, 2010). Her research addresses the relationships among geopolitics, cinematic style, gender, and sexuality.

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