Jinying Li, "Anime's Knowledge Cultures: Geek, Otaku, Zhai" (U Minnesota Press, 2024)


With comics franchises getting turned into multi-billion dollar revenue opportunities and consumer technology companies dominating daily headlines — the trappings of “geekdom” have made their way into the global mainstream over the past few days. As part of this trend, Japanese-style anime has also gained immense transnational popularity, arguably becoming part of the “new cool”.

It’s against this backdrop that Jinying Li dives into the sociocultural landscape of anime with her book Anime’s Knowledge Cultures: Geek, Otaku, Zhai (University of Minnesota Press, March 2024). However, instead of diving into the “Japaneseness” of anime and otaku culture, Anime’s Knowledge Cultures helps frame anime within a more globalized sense of “geekdom” — especially with the rise of post-80s millennial zhai in China’s cultural and economic spheres.

Li is an Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. Her research and teaching focuses on media theory, animation, and digital culture in East Asia. She is also a filmmaker who’s worked on various animations, features, and documentaries, including the noted Chinese 2016 animation feature Big Fish and Begonia.

With this academic and domain expertise, Li’s book illuminates phenomena like fansubs, danmaku “bullet-style” subtitles, and geek “complexes” to audiences who are interested in the theoretical and practical implications of anime’s global popularity. Tune into this episode about Anime’s Knowledge Cultures to learn more—listen to the end for some special anime and movie recommendations.

Anthony Kao is a writer who intersects international affairs and cultural criticism. He founded/edits Cinema Escapist—a publication exploring the sociopolitical context behind global film and television—and also writes for outlets like The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Diplomat, and Eater.

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Anthony Kao

Anthony Kao is the founder of Cinema Escapist and a writer who focuses on the intersection of international affairs and cultural criticism.
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