Chinese Feminism’s Publics

MCI researcher Dr Carwyn Morris was awarded significant funding from the Hallsworth Conference Fund to host a conference on feminist zines and independent self-publishing in China.

Chinese zines

Throughout the 2010s and into the 2020s, self-publishing has become central to the Chinese language mediascape, particularly self-published social media (自媒体). But self-publishing is more than just strictly digital media, and zine's (independent, self-published magazines) are one type of self-published media that have spread widely. Zine's are often though not necessarily roughly printed short-form publications that can take a variety of forms, from a pamphlet or comic book to a magazine, have been spread through small zine and art fairs as well as online marketplaces. And while there has been a focus on the printed form, digital versions of the same zines have also circulated online both publicly and privately.

Recent zines have included a wide range of content, this has included discussing the content of every rubbish bin in a university dorm, an exploration of migrant food cultures attempts to change how menstrual cycles are understood, and explorations of diasporic and migrant life. In one way, these forms of media circulating as material objects in an increasingly digital world tells us of the persistent importance of vibrant material objects that can be interacted with in a variety of ways, but in another way, these zines enable stories to be discussed while circumventing online keyword and image-likeness censorship.

Yet this diverse form of media, widely read in youth sub-cultures in mainland China and within diasporic communities, has received remarkably little attention from scholars of Chinese media. This project, including a multi-stakeholder conference and the production reflecting on women's issues as discussed by Chinese women in the 1930s, will look to stimulate further conversations on Chinese zines, by researchers of Chinese media and by scholars of zines in other geographic contexts.  Funded by the Hallsworth Conference Grant and supported by the Manchester China Institute, this project will host a conference in January 2022 and produce a zine related to the conference themes to be discussed during the conference.

Conference

The two-day event brings together (i) zine makers related to China, (ii) scholars of zines, and (iii) researchers looking at Chinese media and feminist issues. Taking place in January 2022, the conference will host a wide range of researchers and practitioners to discuss zines related to China and to consider future research directions. To aid this, zine-making workshops will be held to help researchers consider the practices involved in zine-making. Furthermore, the zine made by the conference holders will also be presented and discussed, with many of those involved in producing the artefact discussing the conference zine from multiple perspectives.

A call for a paper for participation in the conference will be shared in October, and the conference will look to publish an experimental Special Issue on the themes of the conference with the British Journal of Chinese Studies.   

Conference zine

 As part of this process, a conference zine will be made. This zine reflects on women's issues discussed in the letters section of 1930s Chinese women's magazine, Linglong, through interviews with young people today. The zine is a collaborative project between Carwyn Morris, fashion design group seventyfive, photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley, and Oxford DPhil student, Bonnie Wang. It is supported by the Hallsworth Conference Fund and the Manchester China Institute.

In this project, a range of young collaborators will be interviewed and photographed wearing garments based on those worn by contributors to Linglong. The zine will reproduce the style of the magazine, Linglong, and will explore the thoughts of the contemporary collaborators in regard to issues discussed in the magazine, including gender inequality, marriage, companionship and relationships.

The experience of producing the zine will be explored during the conference, with multiple contributors sharing their thoughts during the event.