Centering Women on Post-2010 Chinese TV

Special Issue of Communication, Culture & Critique (Vol. 15, No. 3, September 2022) Call for Papers

Paper Abstract Deadline (500 words): March 1, 2021

Complete Manuscript Deadline (6000-7000 words): August 1st, 2021

Editors: Jamie J. ZHAO (Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University) and Eve NG (Ohio U)

Since the beginning of China’s self-modernizing process and the birth of Chinese feminist movements in the first decade of 20th century, women’s bodies and desires have frequently been marshaled in service of male-dominated nationalistic and (post-)socialist discourses of China and Chineseness. The ideological-political mobilization of female gender, sexuality, and subjectivity has considerably transformed and complicated contemporary Chinese televisual representations of women. In the 21st century, Chinese cyberspace, along with its flourishing creative and media industries, has witnessed an unexpected “boom in women-oriented literature and culture” (Sun & Yang, 2019, p. 28). Notably, the rise of local media and literature produced by and/or for women, along with flows of feminist and LGBTQ movements within and beyond China in the new millennium, first nurtured the cyber literature genre of “matriarchal fiction.” Such fiction is often “set in a society ruled by women … [and] describes a woman’s ascent to power in the public arena, or her success at establishing and heading a happy domicile including one or more male sexual partners” (Feng, 2013, p. 85). This matriarchal narrative maneuver later led to the widely popular “big heroine dramas” of Chinese TV in the past decade, the narratives of which focus on the life trajectories, professional obstacles, familial relationships, and romantic lives of female protagonists living in either the contemporary era or a temporally and spatially remote world (Sun & Yang, 2019, pp. 26-28). At the same time, a growing number of reality shows, talk TV shows, dating programs, and lifestyle shows in the post-2010 years have addressed themes related to women’s socio-cultural roles in both professional and private milieus, such as parenting skills, same-sex friendships and homosociality, and marital-familial issues in contemporary China characterized by cosmopolitanism, post-feminism, digitization, (post-)globalization, and deterritorialization.

Situated within this intriguing context, this special issue of Communication, Culture & Critique explores images, imaginaries, and performances of women that have dominated the post-2010 Chinese televisual screen. Seeing televisual spaces as a locally, transculturally, and globally mediated ground for the subject formation of “Woman” during this digital, globalist age, the issue aims to consider the following questions:

  • How have emerging TV genres, formats, aesthetics, temporalities, and platforms contributed to the “doing”/construction and “undoing”/deconstruction of womanhood in the contemporary Chinese-speaking context?
  • In what ways have female gender and sexual subjectivities been in constant negotiation, if not entanglement, with the mainstream hetero-patriarchal, authoritarian, ethno-nationalistic cultures that remain prevalent in the televisual space and industry of post-2010 China?
  • How does research on the women-centered TV culture in the past decade open up new analytical possibilities for interrogating existing understandings of China, Chineseness, and Chinese media and popular communication in general?

This call invites proposals concerning critical, interdisciplinary research dedicated to explorations of the mutually implicative relation between womanhood and television in post-2010 China. We conceptualize “China” in a critically expansive way, one that exceeds Mandarin-speaking, Han-Chinese culture. Thus, we especially welcome topics concerning Chinese TV representations of non-Chinese, and/or non-Mandarin-speaking, and/or non-Han women. We are also interested in representations of cross-cultural or transnational familial-marital relationships relating to women’s roles as daughters, mothers, and wives; non-heteronormative women; or male-to-female (MTF) or female-to-male (FTM) transgender and cross-dressing personas and performances. Thus, we seek studies of women’s TV culture from a decolonial, de-Euro-American-centric, and de-Han-centric perspective. The goal is to unveil the intricacies, possibilities, and controversies of identity and agency within a largely authoritarian, patriarchal party-state, thereby helping to establish new theoretical and methodological frameworks at the intersection of Chinese TV studies, China studies, and Chinese gender, feminist, and queer studies.

Potential topics examining TV in China may include but are not limited to:

  • Portrayals of female friendship and sisterhood
  • Narratives of middle- or high-class women’s professional and familial struggles
  • The framing of female singledom and marital strife on reality TV and dating shows
  • Historical and xianxia (“immortal hero”) dramas featuring female protagonists (such as “big heroine dramas”)
  • Imaginaries of young women’s and schoolgirls’ gendered life experiences and romantic relationships (including childhood traumas, parent–child relationships, and female homoeroticism and homosociality)
  • Representations of women who are ethnic and cultural minorities in the Chinese and Sinophone worlds (such as Tibetan, Uyghur, Taiwanese aboriginal, or foreign-born ethnic-Chinese women)
  • The intersection of womanhood, ethnicity/race, nationality, and class on TV (such as images of Thai lesbian stars, Taiwanese and Hong Kong female celebrities, Euro-American Caucasian women, or Southeast Asian female migrant workers)
  • Transgender and cross-dressing women on TV (including those appearing in music and operatic performances on TV and impersonation shows, and TV images of transgender subjects and bodies)
  • The production, distribution, and consumption of online TV programs related to women’s self-representation and self-making, facilitated by the growing popularity of China’s cyber communicative platforms and digital media
  • Representations and censorship of feminist voices and cultures
  • China’s transcultural, transnational adaptation and appropriation of women-centered televisual genres, formats, and aesthetics (such as soap operas and gossip TV, which are traditionally considered feminine and appeal to predominantly female audiences)

Submission Instructions:

Please submit a 500-word abstract as well as a short (2-page) CV by March 1st, 2021 to the co-editors of the special issue at and

Authors whose abstracts are selected will be notified by April 1st, 2021 and asked to submit complete manuscripts (6000-7000 words, including notes and references), in Word format, following the 6th APA style, by August 1st, 2021.

Acceptance of the abstracts does not guarantee publication of the papers, which will be subject to double-blind peer review. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the co-editors at the above two email addresses.

NOTE: Accepted full-length paper contributions will be published in the same Communication, Culture & Critique issue as a Forum section on the related topic of “Global TV Images of Female Masculinity in the 2010s.” The Forum, which seeks shorter essays, has a separate CFP.

Special Issue Editors:

Jamie J. Zhao is a global queer media scholar and currently Assistant Professor of Communications at the Sino-UK collaborative institution, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and another PhD in Film and TV Studies from the University of Warwick. Her research explores East Asian media and public discourses on female gender and sexuality in a globalist age. Her academic writings can be found in a number of journals and edited volumes, such as the journals Feminist Media Studies, Celebrity Studies, Continuum, Critical Asian Studies, and Transformative Works and Cultures, and the anthologies Global Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2019) and Love Stories in China (Routledge, 2019). She also coedited the anthology, Boys’ Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (HKUP, 2017).

Eve Ng is an associate professor in the School of Media Arts and Studies and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Ohio University. Her research includes work on cultural production and viewer engagement around LGBTQ media, social media and participatory practices, and LGBTQ advocacy, and has appeared in Communication, Culture & Critique, Development and Change, Feminist Media Studies, Journal of Film and Video, New Review of Film and Television Studies, Popular Communication, Television and New Media, Transformative Works and Culture, and the Routledge Companion to Media and Human Rights (2017).