Angela ZitoNew York University | NYU · Anthropology and the Program in Religious Studies
· University of Chicago M.Phil, PhD
Anthropology and the Program in Religious Studies
New York City, NY
Skills and Expertise
Takes up the party state's reinvestment in propaganda in discourses of xiaoshun, filiality. Discusses many forms of material expression: TV talk shows, films, poster campaigns, museums, exemplary person awards.
Research Items (20)
Chinese Director Gan Xiao’er makes the first fiction features to take up Christians in their everyday concerns. His film Raised from Dust (Juzi chentu 举自尘土2007) uses mostly members of the community as actors. Gan’s documentary Church Cinema (Jiaotang dianying yuan教堂电影院 2008) intercuts a chronicle of community screenings of Raised from Dust in churches with extensive post-production debriefing with local participants who assisted in making the feature. Gan, himself Christian, and his community approach the aesthetic materialization of this project differently. The community argues that more mobilization of feeling would enhance the fiction feature which they saw primarily as media for evangelizing. Gan was intent on pursuing his own agenda as writer and director with a modernist art-house sensibility. Their differing aesthetic regards point to differences of urban/rural sensibilities and of class distinctions of education, but also to a division within Protestant sensibilities about “sensibilities” themselves. Gan’s restraint about what can be “shown” contrasts with his fellow congregants’ affective enthusiasm for melodrama and “liveness.” Their differences provide examples of how the dialectical mediation of social life requires just such distinct moments of liveness/performance and objectification/artifact. Their malleable, digital objects, videos, are its perfect instantiation.
In 1990s post-Reform China, a growing number of people armed with video cameras poured out upon the Chinese landscape to both observe and contribute to the social changes then underway. Happening upon the crucial platform of an older independent film movement, this digital turn has given us a "DV China" that includes film and media communities across different social strata and disenfranchised groups, including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTQ communities. DV-Made China takes stock of these phenomena by surveying the social and cultural landscape of grassroots and alternative cinema practices after the digital turn around the beginning of the new century. The volume shows how Chinese independent, amateur, and activist filmmakers energize the tension between old and new media, performance and representation, fiction and non-fiction, art and politics, China and the world. Essays by scholars in cinema and media studies, anthropology, history, Asian and Tibetan studies bring innovative interdisciplinary methodologies to critically expand upon existing scholarship on contemporary Chinese independent documentary. Their inquiries then extend to narrative feature, activist video, animation, and other digital hybrids. At every turn, the book confronts digital ironies: On the one hand, its portability facilitates forms of radically private film production and audience habits of small-screen consumption. Yet it also simultaneously links up makers and consumers, curators and censors allowing for speedier circulation, more discussion, and quicker formations of public political and aesthetic discourses. DV-Made China introduces new frameworks in a Chinese setting that range from aesthetics to ethical activism, from digital shooting and editing techniques to the politics of film circulation in festivals and online. Politics, the authors urge, travels along paths of aesthetic excitement, and aesthetic choices, conversely, always bear ethical consequences. The films, their makers, their audiences and their distributional pathways all harbor implications for social change that are closely intertwined with the fate of media culture in the new century of a world that both contains and is influenced by China. 60 illustrations
The Chinese translation of the original book, which was published in 1997, by anthropologist Li Jin (People's Renmin University and University of Michigan). https://book.douban.com/subject/26110803/
This article reflects upon my experience of filmmaking in a public park in Beijing where I learned to write Chinese calligraphy in water. The essay is committed to the idea that people simultaneously produce persons and worlds in practices that result in the material mediations within which those selves are entangled, and also powerfully engage the environment. Thus, the film features aesthetics that form through the embodiment of a certain kind of politics. It emerged in performance but now exists as an artifact, an example of what philosopher Jane Bennett calls “enchanted materialism.” By combining moments of liveness and objectification, it mimics, in a small way, the production of the social itself. Ethnography, I argue here, should account for as much of this dialectical process as it can.
A short essay based on Li Chen's powerful stillphoto/video piece called "Aphasia" which documents Occupy in Oakland CA. Online at http://loveofsun.org/Article_Zito_Angela.html
Rebecca Karl, Tom Lamarre, Claudia Pozzana, Alessandro Russo, Naoki Sakai, Jesook Song, and Angela Zito interview Senior Editor Tani Barlow, posing a series of question on history, politics, conflict, Cold War scholarship, and the struggle over so-called area studies. Topics raised and considered include the history of the journal's founding, critical reminiscence of the project's early years of publications and intellectual politics, historical trends in knowledge production and ways that the positions project has instigated pedagogic change, the contentious idea of "theory" in scholarship, and on editorial work and its relation to philosophy of history. The relation of the editor, her theory and practice of editing, and her relation to intellectual political history are explored at length.
In autumn 2010, I reread the fifty-four issue-books of positions for its use of images. This essay demonstrates that where the image's gestures animate, supplement, and haunt the written text, we find the edge of our critical practice. Journals, like framed shots, have their limitations. What is worth analyzing in social life remains abstract (for example, changes in ways of thinking), intractable (such as shifts in class power dimensions), and invisibly structured (capital in various manifestations). Without sustained effort to materialize analysis (in written and oral language; in images, still and moving; in diagrams and tables), no critique or even understanding, would be possible. Even then, visual information remains a gesture toward larger problems "beyond the frame." I argue that discursive constitution through cultural performativity describes the journal's critical mission. An image does things that text cannot, but I think it does them best in conjunction with, and close by, words, so that there is the possibility for mutual interruption and dialogue. In print form, images work in specific ways, so part of my thinking concerns the digital future. After considering the creative ways images have inhabited the journal's "books," I introduce ephemeral embodied performance art and the concept of "relational aesthetics" to discuss documentary filmmaking today. I suggest useful analogies from current art making. How might we reimagine the performance of our writing and reading labors in the future production of the journal, which will be online and likely no longer on paper?
On May 25, 2004, a relic, the Buddha's finger, was flown to Hong Kong from China. It had been unearthed in 1987 at Famen Temple near Xi'an in Shaanxi Province after over 1,100 years underground. I was invited to attend the closing ceremony on June 4, and filmed it. The finger had been displayed for ten days at the huge Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in its miniature gold pagoda since the Buddha's birthday on May 26 (Figure 1). Over one million devotees had prostrated before the relic and made offerings.
How did foreign Christian anti-footbinding activists treat the distinctive forms of human embodiment they encountered in China? What were their assumptions? How should we understand the transition from religious to secular imaginings of the body and its pains? Here I discuss late nineteenth and early twentieth century religion and medicalized hygiene through the voices of two English people who campaigned against and wrote extensively about footbinding. Not an easy story about God traded for Nature, but a far more uneasy and subliminal borrowing and cross-fertilization of tropes between the religious and the scientific. In both evangelical religion and biological science our protagonists created powerful narrative technologies for making cultural process disappear into nature, and thus to re-channel agency, making it available for new projects. Here we see the secular and the religious informing and reinforcing one another as moments in the creation of the modern.
Journal of the History of Sexuality 10.2 (2001) 195-201 Do we not, all of us, secretly wish our reading to be a form of transportation far away? Do we not -- especially those of us turned professional readers, cast out from the gardens and closets and nighttime beds of our earliest reading paradises -- cast about for any writing that might fan this warm nostalgic glow into a bright flame that could illuminate our own scholarly work? In Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern, Carolyn Dinshaw writes to "explode the categories of sameness, otherness, past, present, loss, pleasure" (p. 2). She writes of a "desire for bodies to touch across time" (p. 3). For her, "queer histories are made of affective relations" (p. 12). I think she writes of Barthes, writing of Michelet's longing for the body of the past because, for her, resurrection is also the name of the game -- a trio of voices raising the dead. To read, to read the past through eyes possessed by the presentiment of desire, the desire of becoming something else, something more, by virtue of and through the virtues of the others one reads. She is in the business not only of translation but also of transportation. Dinshaw also tells us that she writes using Donna Haraway's notion of "partial connection." Haraway draws our attention to the idea that "the knowing self is partial in all its guises, never finished, whole, simply there and original; it is always constructed and stitched together imperfectly and therefore able to join with another, to see without claiming to be another" (p. 14). Dinshaw's modest, ventriloquized declaration of imperfection allows me to imagine myself writing out in connection to her my own reading of the seventeenth-century Chinese erotic novel The Carnal Prayermat, by Li Yu. I bring him to this chorale as a gift of metaphor because he comes from a faraway domain. I ferry him across because some of his projects remind me of Dinshaw's, especially his constant queering of the filial orthodoxy of sex as reproductive, especially his use of this maneuver to perversely preserve the contrasting orthodoxy of Buddhism. I call his moves "queer" in the spirit of Fran Martin, who notes that in the 1995 story "Searching for the Lost Wings of the Angel," by Taiwanese lesbian writer Chen Xue, "Queer is then figured as that which moves between and on the borders of discursive systems, continually interrupting each by means of the other, between and within discourses of psychoanalysis and traditional family, lesbian identity and daughterhood." Her remarks resonate with Dinshaw's own insight that "appropriation, misrecognition, disidentification: these terms that queer theory has highlighted all point to the alterity within mimesis itself, the never-perfect aspect of identification" (p. 35). I have always been drawn to Li Yu's work not only because it has subtlety and humor, but because Li Yu fearlessly writes his way out of so many authoritative discourses of his time, often by pitting them mercilessly against one another in his fiction and then inviting the reader to sit back and watch them take each other down the chute of sexual passion he has so liberally lubricated for us. Today I'd like to talk about some incidents in The Carnal Prayermat that queer the straight discourse of filial reproduction by crossing them with Buddhist expectations delivered in the flesh of women's bodies. The Carnal Prayermat was written in 1657, in China's early modernity, only thirteen years after the northern Manchus took Beijing by horseback, founding the dynasty that would rule China until 1911. It is, thus, a product of devastating conquest warfare, a context that never appears overtly in the text. It tells instead the story of a young scholar, the beautiful Vesperus, who loves sex so much that he sets out upon a voluptuary's conquest of his own, a battle to bed as many women as possible, with a few boys along the way. The novel opens with a strange declarative chapter in which a narrative voice in the first-person plural, a male "we," explains the delights and dangers of sex. "A woman...
The Qianlong emperor, who dominated the religious and political life of eighteenth-century China, was in turn dominated by elaborate ritual prescriptions. These texts determined what he wore and ate, how he moved, and above all how he performed the yearly Grand Sacrifices. In Of Body and Brush, Angela Zito offers a stunningly original analysis of the way ritualizing power was produced jointly by the throne and the official literati who dictated these prescriptions. Forging a critical cultural historical method that challenges traditional categories of Chinese studies, Zito shows for the first time that in their performance, the ritual texts embodied, literally, the metaphysics upon which imperial power rested. By combining rule through the brush (the production of ritual texts) with rule through the body (mandated performance), the throne both exhibited its power and attempted to control resistance to it. Bridging Chinese history, anthropology, religion, and performance and cultural studies, Zito brings an important new perspective to the human sciences in general.
The Qianlong emperor, who dominated the religious and political life of eighteenth-century China, was in turn dominated by elaborate ritual prescriptions. These texts determined what he wore and ate, how he moved, and above all how he performed the yearly Grand Sacrifices. In Of Body and Brush, Angela Zito offers a stunn ingly original analysis of the way ritualizing power was produced jointly by the throne and the official literati who dictated these prescriptions. Forging a critical cultural historical method that challenges traditional categories of Chinese studies, Zito shows for the first time that in their performance, the ritual texts embodied, literally, the metaphysics upon which imperial power rested. By combining rule through the brush (the production of ritual texts) with rule through the body (mandated performance), the throne both exhibited its power and attempted to control resistance to it. Bridging Chinese history, anthropology, religion, and performance and cultural studies, Zito brings an important new perspective to the human sciences in general
For the first time, this volume brings to the study of China the theoretical concerns and methods of contemporary critical cultural studies. Written by historians, art historians, anthropologists, and literary critics who came of age after the People's Republic resumed scholarly ties with the United States, these essays yield valuable new insights not only for China studies but also, by extension, for non-Asian cultural criticism. Contributors investigate problems of bodiliness, engendered subjectivities, and discourses of power through a variety of sources that include written texts, paintings, buildings, interviews, and observations. Taken together, the essays show that bodies in China have been classified, represented, discussed, ritualized, gendered, and eroticized in ways as rich and multiple as those described in critical histories of the West. Silk robes, rocks, winds, gestures of bowing, yin yang hierarchies, and cross-dressing have helped create experiences of the body specific to Chinese historical life. By pointing to multiple examples of reimagining subjectivity and renegotiating power, the essays encourage scholars to avoid making broad generalizations about China and to rethink traditional notions of power, subject, and bodiliness in light of actual Chinese practices. Body, Subject, and Power in China is at once an example of the changing face of China studies and a work of importance to the entire discipline of cultural studies.
For the first time, this volume brings to the study of China the theoretical concerns and methods of contemporary critical cultural studies. Written by historians, art historians, anthropologists, and literary critics who came of age after the People's Republic resumed scholarly ties with the United States, these essays yield v aluable new insights not only for China studies but also, by extension, for non-Asian cultural criticism. Contributors investigate problems of bodiliness, engendered subjectivities, and discourses of power through a variety of sources that include written texts, paintings, buildings, interviews, and observations. Taken together, the essays show that bodies in China have been classified, represented, discussed, ritualized, gendered, and eroticized in ways as rich and multiple as those described in critical histories of the West. Silk robes, rocks, winds, gestures of bowing, yin yang hierarchies, and cross-dressing have helped create experiences of the body specific to Chinese historical life. By pointing to multiple examples of reimagining subjectivity and renegotiating power, the essays encourage scholars to avoid making broad generalizations about China and to rethink traditional notions of power, subject, and bodiliness in light of actual Chinese practices. Body, Subject, and Power in China is at once an example of the changing face of China studies and a work of importance to the entire discipline of cultural studies.
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Footnotes * The original version of this paper was presented as part of a panel on "Cosmology and Power in China" at the 1983 Association for Asian Studies annual meeting. Notes 1. My use of the word "sacrifice" is a poor compromise. In ritual matters English lacks the lexical fineness of Chinese. As with Eskimo words for "snow" the detail the language conveys cannot be duplicated easily. While certain elements of the ceremony recall sacrifice as it has appeared in anthropological description (see especially Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, Sacrifice, W. D. Hall, trans.[Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964]) the fit is not perfect. In Vedic sacrifice fundamentally disparate realms are occasionally connected,, but Chinese Imperial rituals manifest a link that was thought to be always there. Specifically, the character ji consists of two hands above a graph whose early meaning was "omen" and whose later usages center upon ideals of showing, manifesting,and displaying. The etymology of the character si is unknown (Bernard Karlgren, "Grammata Serica Recensa," Bulletin of Far Eastern Antiquities, XXXIX , 255). By the Qing period si was virtually synonomous with ji . The two were linked as the compound jisi in reference to "all sacrifices, major and minor" by Eastern Zhou times (Lester Bilsky, The State Religion of China [Taipei: Chinese Association for Folklore, 1975], v. I, p. 25). Bilsky sidesteps the issue of meaning, calling everything he discusses "sacrifice" in English while providing careful analyses of the changing usages of various terms throughout the Han and pre-Han periods.(See volume I, pp. 233-29.) I too use the term "sacrifice" here although perhaps "display" would be a translation less burdened by misplaced analogy. 2. Milton Singer's essay "Culture" in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 1968, touches upon this shift. In referring to "culture" as the preserve of anthropologists I am considering the English-speaking world and omitting the question of German historical scholarship, especially Dilthey. 3. See Bernard S. Cohn, "Anthropology and History in the 1980's," Journal of Interdiscipllinary History, 12 (Autumn 1981), 227-52 4. Milton Singer, "Culture Theory's Tilt Towrd Semiotics," copy of unpublished essay. 5. Ward E. Goodenough, "Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics," in Dell Hymes, ed., Language in Culture and Society (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 36. Goodenough's essay first appeared in 1957. 6. Ibid. p. 39. 7. In my own work I have found it extremely important to take seriously the textual nature of the evidence. In doing so I have found literary criticism, especially when it takes a semiological approach, very helpful. Readers who wish an introduction to such theories should consult Terence Hawkes, Structuralism and Semiotics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977). A summary that takes a "value-free"and non-political approach is Irene Portis Winner and Thomas Winner, "The Semiotics of Cultural Texts," Semiotica 18:2 (1976), 101-56. I have been more influenced by writers who have used semiotic analysis to develop theories of the ideological dynamics of power in society. See particularly V. N. Volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (New York: Seminar Press, 1973), a translation of a work first published in the Soviet Union in 1930, and Rosalind Coward and John Ellis, Language and Materialism (London: Rutledge and Kegan Paul, 1977). 8. The question of paradigmatic substitution of an entire sacrifice within the yearly cyclical set is taken up in my forthcoming dissertation. The following chart gives some idea of the types of substitutions that occur HEAVEN EARTH ANCESTORS SOIL&GRAIN *Vessels are the same in form as for other sacrifices, but there are special wine vessels used which are not found in others. Season: Winter Summer Spring/Fall same Celebrant faces: North South North South Vessel color: Blue Yellow X* Yellow Type: Yang Yin Yang Yin 9. The definition of discourse will be taken up at some length later in the paper. The writer who has done perhaps most to advance "discourse" as an analytical concept is Michel Foucault. His histories are actually histories of discursive practices which he describes as: the delineation of a field of objects, the definition of a legitimate perspective for the agent of knowledge, and the fixing...