Representing History through the Personal and the Familial: Cinema and TV Production in Postsocialist China

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Representing History through the Personal and the Familial: Cinema and TV Production in Postsocialist China
Stream: Cinema Studies/Film
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Chialan Sharon Wang, Oberlin College, United States (organizer, presenter)
Hsiu-Chuang Deppman, Oberlin College, United States (presenter)
Lawrence Zi-Qiao Yang, Harvard University, United States (presenter)
Zhuoyi Wang, Hamilton College, United States (presenter)
Jiwei Xiao, Fairfield University, United States (chair, discussant)


Since the beginning of China’s economic reform, the representation of the nation’s postsocialist transformation in film and TV production has been a field of discursive complicity and negotiation. In such a cultural practice, historical experiences are often framed in private memories, personal journeys, or familial relationships. This panel explores film and TV productions that articulate multivalent narratives in chronicling postsocialist China. It investigates the way national history is recast as personal and domestic stories. Lawrence Zi-Qiao Yang studies the movie, Hello, Yiwu (2011) and TV-drama, Feather Flies to The Sky (2015) and unpacks the discourses of cosmopolitan kinship associated with the Belt and Road Initiative. In these two works, the notion of kinship is redefined as infrastructure around the city of Yiwu, the world’s largest wholesale market and the first stop of the trans-continental railway line. Also analyzing the kinship narrative in PRC’s national discourse, Zhuoyi Wang discusses the 2004 film, My Bittersweet Taiwan and investigates the ambivalent discursive formation of Taiwan within the incongruity of the political ideology and artistic style of the film. Foregrounding counter-discourses to China's economic expansion, Hsiu-Chuang Deppman delves into Jia Zhangke’s documentation of China’s transition from socialist economy to market economy in his 2018 film, Ash Is Purest White and teases out a parallel development of female agency. Similarly, Chialan Sharon Wang studies Lou Ye’s The Shadow Play and scrutinizes the characters’ turbulent emotional attachment as a sentimental resistance to the alienation and displacement brought about by China’s capitalist advancement.