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Speaker: Mary Mazzilli (University of Essex)


Both Chen Xiaomei’s Occidentalism A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China and Claire Conceison’s Significant Other: Staging the American in China are important in that they consider the tensions between West and East in Chinese culture but, even if both studies refer indirectly and directly to race, they never deal with it directly. Thus, two important questions need to be asked: how is race performed on the contemporary Chinese stage in relation, especially in relation to its white Other counterpart? Is Chinese Occidentalism only further perpetuating a discourse of cultural Orientalism by constructing racialist stereotypes? In the contemporary theatre, the situation has greatly changed since the abovementioned books were published, with more White Caucasians living in China and making theatre, and with many more global transnational collaborations and cultural artist exchanges becoming the norm.  Wang Chong emerging as one of the new faces in Chinese theatre epitomises contemporary China fluid cross-cultural theatrical landscape. Wang Chong, educated in both China and USA, has built his career by adapting Western contemporary classics for the Chinese stage and more recently has produced theatre transnationally in the Asia-pacific region, making work with international theatre-makers.

A third additional question needs to be asked pointing out to the Chinese global and transnational presence: Can we talk about a form of cultural Sino-centrism disguised under a deconstructed racial fluidity? This paper will address this question and the two abovementioned questions, more specifically by considering when the White Other enters China through the vehicle of adaptation and translation of Western contemporary theatre on the Chinese stage and most importantly when China looks outwards exporting their own history abroad.

About the speaker 

Dr Mary Mazzilli is Lecturer in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at Essex. Prior to that, she worked at Goldsmiths, University of London in the Theatre and Performance Department (2015-2016) and in 2012-2014, was a post-doctoral fellow at Nanyang Technological University - Singapore. Her monograph Gao Xingjian’s Post-Exile Plays: Transnationalism and Postdramatic Theatre is published with Bloomsbury Methuen Drama and has attracted excellent reviews.