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Ecocinemas of transnational China – Interactions: Studies in Communications and Cultures

2012 June 26
by pkaapa

Ecocinemas of transnational China – special issue

Interactions: Studies in Communications and Cultures, 2:2, 2012

Edited by Pietari Kääpä and Tommy Gustafsson

Following the work of Sheldon Lu and Jiayan Mi, the authors of the collection Chinese Ecocinema in the Age of Environmental Challenge, Intellect Publishing’s Interactions journal has devoted a special issue to exploring ecocritical analyses of Chinese cinema that complicate the simplistic binary of the local and the global.

To operate at the intersections of ecology and the media is to delve into interdisciplinary considerations that merge the sciences and the humanities. Another form of interactivity emerges at the transnational nexus where planetary ecosystemic concerns meet the cultural and political specifics of transnational China – the focus of this special issue. But neither of these terms – transnational and China – can be taken at face value. The articles in this volume seek to address the implications of these two concepts for ecocinema: Why transnational? Why China?

China, in all its complexities, forms the basis for the rhetorical invigoration of this special issue concerning the existent paradigms of ecocinema and transnational cinema. The focus here is on the complexity of borders that exist, first, between the three Chinas (Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong), and second, between China and the world, and the elements that flow between them. By focusing on the mediating and restricting role of borders, we address the ways the political cartography of the Chinese ecoscape both prohibits and enables ecological thinking and activity. Concerns that are central here relate to national projects that have an impact on the ecosystem (the Three Gorges Dam is addressed in many of the articles), but this also concerns the ways cultural flows and economic considerations become ecological on a global scale.

Organization of the volume

This volume explores a range of transnational connections, from those between the three Chinas and their diasporas, to those interrogating China’s role on a global stage – and the presence of the deterritorialized global in the Chinese context. The point increasingly seems to be that it is not only deterritorialized modes of industrial-economic organization and cultural flows that invade China. This is now multidirectional and increasingly multilateral as Chinese media products now not only compete for attention in the domestic marketplace, but have also started to venture into other markets with success.

As the industrial and economic circumstances of China become global, both the producers of ecocinema and its analysts must meet the demands of planetary interconnectedness . In exploring the manifestations of ecological concerns in Chinese cinemas, the four articles in this collection explore the use value of the transnational angle, while they use tools specific to the field to expand the study of ecocinema. The articles are as follows:

“Ecocinemas of transnational China: introduction”

Authors: Pietari Kääpä and Tommy Gustafsson


“China has a natural environment, too!: Consumerist and ideological eco-imaginaries in the cinema of Feng Xiaogang”

Authors: Corrado Neri


“Colourful screens: Water imaginaries in documentaries from China and Taiwan”

Authors: Tam Yee Lok


“From My Fancy High Heels to Useless clothing: ‘Interconnectedness’ and eco-critical issues in transnational documentaries”

Authors: Kiu-Wai Chu


“The politics of viewing ecocinema in China: Reflections on audience studies and transnational ecocinema”

Authors: Pietari Kääpä


REVIEW: “Chinese Ecocinema in the Age of Environmental Challenge (Lu, S. and Mi, J. ed.)”

Authors: Pietari Kääpä


Find information on the publication here:,id=2237/

3 Responses leave one →
  1. smonani permalink
    June 26, 2012

    A much needed addition to the current scholarship in ecocinema. I look forward to accessing this special issue. Thanks for spreading the word.

  2. Steve Rust permalink*
    June 28, 2012

    I’ve had time to read the introduction and last essay on audiences and will hopefully finish the rest this weekend. I was particularly struck by the comments surrounding what your educated Chinese audience referred to as “ordinary” viewers. Too often cinephiles can fall into the trap of seeing the independent (or specialty) market as a haven for sophisticated cosmopolitans and Hollywood for everyone else. I also think it’s worth remembering that what seems obvious to ecocritics when they watch films like “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Still Life” still isn’t always obvious to many “ordinary” people who see these films simply because they haven’t been trained to read environment into everything they consume.

    Did you have a grant to put this study together? I was a little confused trying to figure out the context for the study. Sometimes you have to love globalization – a researcher from Finland writing in English about a study involving the new Chinese middle class!

    Did you hear that the US and China recently signed a new trade agreement regarding film and media?


    • Pietari Kääpä permalink
      June 29, 2012

      Dear Salma and Steve,

      Many thanks for your comments. The ways audience preconceptions affect their viewing of films with ecological content was indeed one of the targets of my investigation. This works on multiple levels from the ways they open up to the texts to how they use their content in external discussions.

      Steve – you are entirely right about the tendency of ecocritics to presume everyone else sees what they see in ecocinema. This is also about preconceptions emerging in the viewing process, but in the case of the ecocritic, they can hinder our ability to dynamically engage the viewing community as we may take for granted that others hold the same interests and values as us.

      Your comments highlight an aspect that became increasingly prevalent to me during this research: the viewing context is paramount. If we want ecocinema to work ecologically, there needs to be some activating agent that generates this particular form of engagement with the text. By this, I do not mean that audiences are somehow reading the films wrong (after all, perhaps it is us, the ecocritics, if anyone, who read them ‘wrong’!). On the contrary, this indicates the potential for multiple divergent readings and applications to which films we label as ecocinema are used.

      I did this research during my post at University of Nottingham campus in Ningbo, China and would very much one day like to do a much larger study on the topic.

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