China and Inner Asia
Responding to the ecological turn in literary and media studies, this panel traces the trajectories of multi-species poetics in Sinophone literature and media from the Republican, socialist, to postcolonial and post-socialist eras. We will discuss human-animal relations reflected and imagined in multimedia representations, which destabilize anthropocentric narratives in their respective contexts.
Revisiting Lao She’s novel City of Cats, which has often been interpreted as a national allegory, Chuxu Lu reveals how the foregrounded felinity and femininity of the “cat people” in the novel transgress the human-centered and male-dominant discourses of modernization and nationalism. In a similar vein, Dingru Huang uses An Elephant Capture, a long-forgotten documentary produced during the Cultural Revolution, to demonstrate how pre-socialist perceptions of animals were incorporated into developmentalist and multi-ethnic nationalist discourses while disturbing them from within. Shifting the focus to the contemporary Sinophone scene, Haiyan Lee explores creative approaches to human-animal coexistence in the Anthropocene through two latest novels involving zoo animals by the Taiwanese writer Wu Ming-yi and the mainland writer Ma Bo-yong. Illuminating on a “poetics of fluffiness” in literary, lyrical, and photographic treatments of street cats and community cats in Hong Kong today, Fiona Law reveals the poetics’ subversive and healing potential, which risks being compromised by neo-liberal precarity.
From extraordinary “humanimals” to ordinary pets, from zoo animals to wild beasts, animals in this panel are treated as more than symbolic embodiments, but also as agents and media that navigate power dynamics, provoke crises, and reveal overlooked local and global ecological connections.
Paper Presenter: Haiyan Lee – Stanford University
Paper Presenter: Dingru Huang – Harvard University
Paper Presenter: Chuxu Lu – New York University