Translating for change: Anglophone queer cinema and the Chinese LGBT+ movement

Lead Research Organisation: UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
Department Name: Modern Languages

Abstract

This project analyses the use of Anglophone (North American, British, Australasian) queer cinema as a means of developing LGBT+ culture and rights in China. Despite the plethora of research on this cinema (e.g. Aaron 2004, Griffiths 2006, Rich 2013, Juett and Jones 2010) and global queer cinema (e.g. Schoonover and Galt 2016, Pecic 2016), there is little research on the translation of Anglophone queer films and their interactions with regional LGBT+ movements. Little or no research has studied how the consumption of these films in translation has been shaped by changing media ecologies.

Translating for Change fills this gap by investigating the relationship between Anglophone queer cinema and Chinese popular culture in the wider context of the Chinese LGBT+ rights movement. Although homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders in 2001 by China's Ministry of Health, LGBT+ people continue to suffer discrimination and harassment. Media portraying homosexual and transgender topics have been strictly censored, limiting public discussion of sexual and gender identity in China (e.g. "General Rules of Internet Audiovisual Program Content Censorship"; China Netcasting Services Association 2017). This censorship has suppressed the development of domestic queer cinema, but stimulates the translation and consumption of international queer cinema (especially Anglophone) in China.

Recent work, mainly in sociology and gender studies, has analysed Chinese LGBT+ activism involving films, from independent queer filmmaking (e.g. Chao 2010) to the emergent queer media culture in China (e.g. Engebretsen, Schroeder and Bao 2015). Rather than focusing on the media representation of Chinese LGBT+ communities, this project explores how the unofficial translation and dissemination of Anglophone queer films participate in and shape the development of the LGBT+ rights movement and culture in China.

Collaborating with Aibai, a non-profit Chinese organization aiming at promoting equal rights for the LGBT+ community, QAFONE and Jihua Network, two of the most influential Chinese LGBT+ subtitling groups, this project will investigate the translation and discussion of Anglophone LGBT+ films in China and the screening of these translated films in important Chinese queer film events (e.g. Shanghai Pride film festival, Shanghai Queer Festival, Beijing Queer Film Festival, China Queer Independent Film Tour) as well as social events organized by Chinese LGBT+ organizations.

Our research will examine the key players involved in the translation and dissemination of Anglophone queer films and broaden existing research on transnational connections between Anglophone and Chinese LGBT+ movements. We will engage local Chinese LGBT+ communities and disseminate research findings through three seminars organized in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as hosting an exhibition and an international conference on queer cinema and international LGBT+ movements, bringing together UK and international academics, translators and representatives from international LGBT+ organizations. A report (in Chinese and English) will also be produced on the Chinese translation of international (especially Anglophone) queer cinema.

This project will deepen our understanding of the continuity and rupture between global and local queer cinematic culture and reveal the trends and complexities in the circulation of queer-related knowledge via film. Our research will provide valuable information about how new digital media technologies enable new possibilities and fora for Chinese queer culture. It will facilitate connections and dialogues among academics, professionals, translators and activists, and intervene in current debates about world queer cinema and global queer politics. Its focus on the intersection between queer cinematic culture and fan translation will offer a unique perspective on studies of digitalized LGBT+ politics.

Planned Impact

Through researching the use of translated Anglophone queer cinema in China, the project offers impact in four areas:

1. The Chinese film market has always been difficult to enter for international film companies due to China's strict quota system for imported film (only 34 foreign films per year). There is no opportunity for foreign queer films to be distributed in Chinese mainstream cinemas due to the government's censorship of LGBT+ content. This research will make Anglophone LGBT+ filmmakers and distributors (e.g. Andrew Haigh, Isaac Julien, Lindsey Dryden, Jessica Devaney and members from Queer Producers Collective) more aware of the wider reception of their work, help them explore Chinese collaborations (e.g. non-profit subtitling) for promoting/screening their previous and future works, and engage multicultural UK audiences and international web-based audiences (e.g. information sites, recorded interviews, posters and other downloadable materials, social media campaigns).

2. Through the analysis of how subtitled Anglophone films have been used in queer film festivals in China to encourage local discussion and connect with international LGBT+ culture, the project will impact activists (e.g. Wu Man, Wei Jiankang, Fan Popo, Cui Zi'en) in China, the UK and around the world (e.g. Jason Barker, Tricia Tuttle and Brian Robinson) by offering examples of practice that can inspire and guide future festival programming and outreach events. LGBT+ organisations in China (e.g. Beijing LGBT Centre, Shanghai NVAI, PFLAG China, and our project partners, Aibai, QAFONE and Jihua), stand to benefit directly from such information in their development of LGBT+ events in China (see our partners' support letters). International LGBT+ organisations, especially UK film festival organisers (e.g. Stonewall, LGBT Consortium UK, BFI Flare, Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest, Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival and Poutfest), will be able to adapt and use our findings in diversifying and internationalizing events through translated foreign-language films.

3.Recently, several Chinese LGBT+ online communities and apps (e.g. Yilutongxing in Tianya.cn, Zank, jihuawang.net), including subtitling groups, have been closed down due to strengthening of censorship in China. A lot of important information regarding these communities and the influence of Anglophone queer films on China's LGBT+ movement is going to be lost. In light of this, our research is urgent and of crucial importance. Although the information that our research provide is China-specific, knowledge of these subtitling practices will also affect the practices of other online subtitling groups elsewhere in the world (in Italy, South Korea and Vietnam, among other nations) through offering examples of good practice for organization of groups, dissemination of materials and engaging audiences in debate.

4. The project's analysis of the way in which imported cinema interacts with local, Chinese queer knowledges and practices will benefit international and Chinese LGBT+ organizations (e.g. Stonewall, Aibai, etc) by demonstrating ways in which transnational activism can be sensitive to local issues and cultures. It will affect their practice by highlighting the negotiation at the heart of any form of activism and the need to respect existing cultural forms, thus enhancing campaigns through the creation of internationally inclusive materials or through the creation of materials that can be targeted to specific communities. Furthermore, the research will bring to light often overlooked practices in China that will influence international LGBT+ communities through offering alternative, non-hegemonic practices that challenge forms of homonormativity.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description It is found that the dissemination of Anglophone queer films in China has taken various channels, from private screening sponsored by commercial entities, and public screening in various pride and queer film festivals, to password-protected digital circulation within queer communities. The translation of these films is often completed by queer subbing groups and the process of translation constitutes an important practice of community-building. Chinese LGBT+ organisations play an interesting role in supporting and shaping the reception of Anglophone queer films. Foreign institutions such as the British Council and British Embassy in China constitute the pulling force connecting the Chinese audience to Anglophone queer media and subtly conditioning the landscape of Chinese queer culture.

Another interesting observation is how Anglophone queer films are received differently among different social groups and demographically. Anglophone queer films are more appealing to Chinese urban youth, especially those who are in first or second-tier cities and have more knowledge of western cultures. At present, a majority of translation are done by Chinese queer fansubbing groups and their translations constitute the main resource of foreign queer media contents for Chinese queer public, especially those who are not in the first-tier cities and are unable to access influential queer film events.
Exploitation Route The findings of this project will help 1) Anglophone professional queer filmmakers to understand better their international audience, especially audience in mainland China;
2) Researchers in queer/gender studies, cultural studies, Chinese studies, who will be able to see how queer media is circulated and received across languages and cultures;
3) LGBT+ organisations and individual activist to see how local identity politics can shape the circulation and interpretation of queer cultural products and how queer cinematic culture is entangled with local LGBT+ communities.
4) governments and policy-makers to explore the political significance of the global queer media culture.
Sectors Creative Economy

Education

Government

Democracy and Justice

Culture

Heritage

Museums and Collections

 
Description Our analysis of the Chinese translation of Anghophone Queer Cinema has been presented on various occasions, including the public-facing Shanghai Pride Festival (2019), Five Films for Freedom British Council Beijing Office Screening event, and Guangzhou LGBT Film Festivals. Our audience involved the general Chinese public, Chinese LGBT+organisations' representatives, postgraduate students, fan translators and queer activists. These events encourage the Chinese public's participation in queer related cultural events and foster collaboration among various local and international cultural institutions and LGBT+ organisations. Our findings enhance the audiences' understanding of British queer cinema and the cultural, linguistic and political issues embedded in the Chinese translation of Anglophone queer films.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Societal

 
Description Organisation of a film screening and a seminar 
Organisation British Council
Department British Council in China
Country China 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The research team selected the films to be screended and invited two experts to give a talk at the seminar. The team also cover the expense of renting the venue and providing refreshment.
Collaborator Contribution British Council Beijing Office kindly provides admin support in preparing, promoting and organisation of the screening and seminar. The films screened are also supplied and translated by Beijing Office
Impact A wide range of audience from Chinese LGBT+ organisations, university students, media and general public was reached. Many of the audience provided very positive feedback and claimed that their perception and understanding of queer cinema had been transformed.
Start Year 2019
 
Description A online talk "Transnational and Translational Queer Fandom in China" for Queer China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Guo and Dr Evans jointly gave a talk on "Transnational and Translational Queer Fandom in China" in a seminar organised by Queer China, UK, on 30 October 2021. In this talk, Dr Guo and Evans gave a brief introduction to Chinese queer subing groups and their translation of Anglophone queer cinema and explored how translation connects Chinese queer fans to international queer communities and at the same time enriches local queer culture. The talk attracted audiences from UK, Europe, US, Hong Kong and Mainland China.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2021
 
Description A presentation on "Teaching LGBT+ aspects of translation in a master's degree: sneaking in inclusion' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Evans presented a paper on "Teaching LGBT+ aspects of translation in a master's degree: sneaking in inclusion", at the 5th e-Expert Seminar Series: Translation and Languages Teaching: "LGBTQI+ Issues in Modern Foreign Languages and Translation Education", University College London, 16 June 2021 [online]. In the paper, Dr Evans highlighted the significance of de-colonizing and diversifiying postgraduate curriculum through teaching topics on LGBT+ related translation practice and demonstrated how the changes can be initiated in both theoretical and practical modules.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description A workshop entitled "Translating Anglophone Queer Cinema into Chinese: Imagination, Identification and Representation" at the Shanghai Pride Film Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Around 60 people from general public attended a workshop entitled "Translating Anglophone Queer Cinema into Chinese: Imagination, Identification and Representation" that the research team organised at the Shanghai Pride Film Festival in 2019. In this workshop, the project researchers and invitated expert, representatives from Chinese fan subtitling group presented their research findings and shared their experience of translating Anglophone queer films. These talks stimulated an active discussion and debate on the role of translator in engaging the general public and the understanding of British queer cinema.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.shpride.com/2019/06/17/recapshpff0615/?lang=en
 
Description Dr Benedict Morrison's talk on British queer cinema for FF4Freedom Beijing British Council seminar on Youtube and project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Benedict Morrison was invited to produce this video on British LGBT cinema for the film screening event organised for FF4 Freedome organised by British Council Beijing Office. The video was subtitled in both Chinese and English and later shared to the general public through the project's Youtube channel and the project website. In the video, Dr Morrison explores how LGBT+ identities have been represted and interpreted in British cinema in the past half-century and the changing political and cultural landscapes for the production of LGBT+ media texts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021,2022,2023
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8SpuPtlR40
 
Description Dr Jonathan Evans' Youtube video on translating Britishnese 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Evans discusses the Britisheness- associated with class, accent and life style in British queer cinema and the challenges of representing it via translation. The video was firstly produced (with both Chinese and English subtitles) for the FF4Freedome screening event the project team jointly held with British Council Beijing office in March 2018. An extended version was presented as a seminar talk in the Guangzhou LGBT+ film festival in June 2018. It was then uploaded to Youtube channel and the project website for sharing with the general public, including our contacts and research partners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021,2022,2023
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxB1NBcPCf0
 
Description Exhibition on Queer Cinema in Motion 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In collaboration with the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum at Exeter, Dr Guo and Dr Evans have organized an exhibition on the travels of cinema around the world, Queer Cinema in Motion, based on materials to be found within Bill Douglas collection.

The exhibition has an offline version, based in the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum at the University of Exeter, which is free to visit and open seven days a week. The exhibtion opened in June 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022,2023
URL https://translatingforchange.exeter.ac.uk/exhibition/
 
Description FIlm introduction at Queer East film festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Guo gave an introduction to the film, East Palace, West Palace (1996) at Liverpool FACT as part of the Queer East Film Festival UK tour 2022.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Film Screen and seminar at Guangzhou LGBT Film Festival June 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact our research team organised another film screening and seminar jointly with British Council Guangzhou Office at British Consulate-General (Guangzhou). This event was part of the Guangzhou LGBT Film Festival 2019 to advocate the equal rights of LGBT people. Around 50 people from the general Guangzhou public attended the event. There were two brief talks tied in with the five short films screened. The discussion following the talks was very engaging and inspriational. Many audience responded through feedback form about their enhanced understanding of queer films and queer culture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://translatingforchange.exeter.ac.uk/events/seminar-at-guangzhou-lgbt-film-festival/
 
Description Film screening and seminar "Approaching British Queer Cinema", jointly with British Council Beijing Office at the British Embassy Residence in Beijing. on March 29th, 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact As a part of the annual free worldwide viewing campaign, "Five Films for Freedom", organized by BFI Flare/London LGBTQ+ film festival and the British Council, this project's research team collaborated with British Council China and Beijing office and organized a film screening followed up with a seminar on Anglophone Queer cinema. Two influential researchers from China and UK gave a brief talk in the seminar and answered questions from the audience regarding the film and queer cinema in general. Around 60 people participated in the screening and seminar. Many of the participants are representatives from Chinese LGBT organisations and the audience showed great interest in the topic of queer cinema and LGBT movement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://translatingforchange.exeter.ac.uk/events/ff4freedom-beijing/
 
Description Interview by BBC "New Thinking: Uncovering Queer Communities" in June 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Guo was interviewed by Naomi Paxton in BBC Podcast series: "New Thinking: Uncovering Queer Communities", in which Dr Guo discussed the 'underground' queer communities in China and how they used translation to import and interpret queer cultures from other places around the world on the one hand; and circumvent the censorship and control on the development of local queer subculture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0cbtrkv
 
Description Interview for Framing Media 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Dr Jonathan Evans (CoI) and I were interviewed by Peter Labuza, the host of Framing Media (http://www.thecinephiliacs.net/2021/), based in Los Angles, UK. We were invited to talk about our article "Translational and transnational queer fandom in China: the fansubbing of Carol" recently published in the Journal of Feminist Media Studies and fansubbing and LGBT+ movements in China. Jonathan and I introduced our ongoing research on queer fandom and explored the cultural and political significance of the translation practice of Chinese queer fansubbing groups such as Jihua and QAFone.

Through the interview with Framing Media, we were able to speak to the broader public about our research on fansubbing and LGBT+ culture across languages and cultures. The podcast is still in the process of editing and the finished program will last 20-30 minutes. It will introduce our work to a broader audience beyond those with access to paywall publications and help disseminate our research to interested parties including film professionals, fan study scholars, LGBT+ organisations and policymakers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Interview for a digital media 'Rest of World' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Dr. Jonathan Evans (CoI) and Dr. Ting Guo (PI) were interviewed by Meaghan Tobin from Restofworld.org. We were invited to talk about our research on Chinese queer fansubbing groups and LGBT+ culture in China. Our research provides Tobin with updated information on Chinese queer fansubber, especially QAFone and Jihua. And the conversation that we had with Tobin was also used as references in her article "China's subtitle army" published at Restofworld.org.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://restofworld.org/2020/the-subtitle-army-of-china/
 
Description Introduction to a film screening event organised by Queer East Film Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Guo presented an introduction & interpretation of the film East Palace, West Palace (1996), a classic from queer Chinese cinema at Liverpool FACT theatre, as part of Queer East Film Festival 2022 To
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Joint presentation at a conference (Travelling Theories and the Location of Culture: Translating Feminism and Queer Theory in Contemporary China) in China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Guo and Dr Evans jointly presented a paper entitled 'Translating Queer Theory through fan paratexts in online film communities in China', at Travelling Theories and the Location of Culture: Translating Feminism and Queer Theory in Contemporary China, University of Nottingham Ningbo, China, 12-13 June 2021 [by Zoom]. In this paper, they explores how fans interpret, appropriate and circulate queer theory through translation and how Chinese online communities are transforming the increasingly digitalized popular culture in China.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Paper jointly presented by PI and CoI on "Translating queer cultures: new media and the circulation of Anglophone queer cinema in China" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact PI and CoI jointly presented a paper on 'Translating queer cultures: new media and the circulation of Anglophone queer cinema in China' at Asia Pacific Forum for Translation and Intercultural Studies, SOAS, London, 4-5 January 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Paper jointly presented by PI and CoI on 'Imagination and Representation: Anglophone queer cinema in China' at Straight to the Front Row: Investigating Contemporary Western Gay Male Cinema 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Project PI and CoI, Dr. Ting Guo and Dr. Jonathan Evans, jointly presented a paper entitled 'Imagination and Representation: Anglophone queer cinema in China' at Straight to the Front Row: Investigating Contemporary Western Gay Male Cinema, University of Northampton, 16-17 February 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Paper presented by CoI, Dr. Jonathan Evans, entitled 'Fan Translation as World Making' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Jonathan Evans (CoI) presented a paper entitled "Fan Translation as World Making', 2019 Performance and Translation Seminar," Nida Institute, San Pellegrino University Foundation, Misano Adriatico, Italy, 8-11 April 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Paper presented on 'Translating Queer Cultures" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Ting Guo and Jonathan Evans jointly presented a paper entitled 'Translating Queer Cultures: Political and social issues in the translation of Anglophone queer cinema' at Translation as a Political Act, Università degli Studi di Perugia, Perugia, Italy, 9-11 May 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presenting paper: Screening Anglophone Queer Cinema in China: Translation and Worldmaking 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Jonathan Evans presented this co-authored paper to postgraduate students in Roehampton on 20 February. However, due to ongoing strikes at the time, attendance was minimal, with only a handful of postgraduate students attending. This did not stop there being lively discussion afterwards, and an increased awareness of the topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presenting paper: Screening Anglophone Queer Cinema in China: Translation, Negotiation and Community 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The paper was presented as part of the Centre for European and International Studies Research seminar series and was open to the public. Approximately twenty people attended, including postgraduate students and staff. There was lively discussion afterwards, and an increased interest in the project and LGBT+ related issues in translation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Translating for change project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Guo and Dr Evans produced a public-facing website on the Project "Translating for Change" to engage a wider audience. The website not only presents latest information on the new research activities/events related to the project, but also serves as a focal point to engage with the public through videos, blogs and online exhibitions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021,2022
URL https://translatingforchange.exeter.ac.uk/
 
Description Video essay competition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact As part of our AHRC-funded Conference "Worldmaking around the world: rethinking the intersections of popular media, translation and LGBTQ+ activism across cultures", University of Exeter, 21st and 22nd May 2021, we launched a video essay competition.

A panel of judges including Dr Ting Guo, Dr Jonathan Evans and Dr Benedict Morrison reviewed the entries received and selected a winner and two runners up. With permissions, their video essays are shared with the public via the project website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022,2023
URL https://translatingforchange.exeter.ac.uk/video-essay-competition/