Performing Gender, Performing Documentary in Post-socialist China<sup>1</sup>

Shi-Yan Chao

in As Normal as Possible

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9789622099876
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9789882206625 | DOI:
Performing Gender, Performing Documentary in Post-socialist China1

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This chapter considers the representations of transgender and male queerness found in the prolific underground documentary genre, also known as the “New Documentary Movement”. It also explores how the film's reflection on queerness could be seen as parallel to its reflection on realism and how the two embody and foreground each other by focusing on two recent documentary films, Tang Tang and Mei Mei. It then argues that the reflexivity permeating Tang Tang foregrounds the openness of the queer subjectivities it portrays. Moreover, it places the cross-dressing subjects of both films at a time of social transition in order to highlight the ways in which gender-crossing performers negotiate their subjectivity in post-socialist China. Through its reflection on xianchang — an artistic concept and practice rooted in China's post-socialist soil — Tang Tang also writes Chinese postsociality into its experiment with form. Meanwhile, Mei Mei sheds light on other aspects of cross-dressing by drawing attention to formal variations of cross-dressing that are beyond the experience of metropolitan Beijing and are socio-geographically ingrained.

Keywords: China; cross-dressing; male queerness; New Documentary Movement; Tang Tang; Mei Mei; gender-crossing

Chapter.  10544 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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