Jiyu Zhang: Global Chinese Cinema: Culture, Identity, and Politics in Chinese Films

Jiyu Zhang | Leiden University, Department of Film and Literary Studies, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) | Supervisors: prof. dr Ernst van Alphen, dr Peter Verstraten, dr Eliza Steinbock | 1 September 2015—1 September 2019 | j.zhang[at]hum.leidenuniv.nl

Global Chinese Cinema: Culture, Identity, and Politics in Chinese Films

No later than the turn of the century, the notion of Chineseness has entered into a crisis. Many theorists and scholars, including Rey Chow, Ien Ang, and Shu-mei Shih, to just name a few, have called into question the seemingly impeccable notion of Chineseness. For them, “Chineseness” reads like a monolithic, compulsory, and dominant presence that almost immediately suggests suppression and elimination. Whereas China as a source of influence suggests connection, exchange, and reciprocation among others, it also incites hierarchy, centralization, and homogenization. Therefore, scholars like Chow and Shih are quick to respond to the alarming risk. Even though it is clear to them that, China used to be and still remains a part of the larger imaginary of Orientalism, they also point out the isomorphism and imposition of China as a cultural hegemony over others. Thus it entails a thorough reflection on the power dynamics within the realm of Chineseness, in order to see how a system of value and practice play out under distinctive circumstances. Thereupon a quest to examine existential conditions individuals and communities both inside and outside China is set in motion. Central to this quest is a line of thinking that aims to fracture the singularity of Chineseness as a monolithic whole. As a result, Chineseness is not a given, but a sustenance of discursive formation. Hence, this project aims to explore the intricacies of knowledges and practices, cinematic representations in particular, in the contexts of China, Chinese, and Chineseness.