Thomas Chen, "Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen Movement in Chinese Literature and Film" (Columbia UP, 2022)


Hello, world! This is the Global Media & Communication podcast series.

In this episode, our host Ignatius Suglo discusses the book Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen Movement in Chinese Literature and Film (Columbia University Press, 2022) by Thomas Chen.

You’ll hear about:

  • Author’s intellectual and professional trajectory that led him to the book;
  • How to study Tiananmen Movement as a media event through a careful selection of literature and film materials;
  • How to think of the productivity of silence and absence;
  • The use of “positive energy” in mobilizing censorship;
  • Human labor and the idea of “workshop” in the work of censorship;
  • How iconic images such as “Tank Man” have been interpreted and appropriated;
  • The role played by women in social movements and their representations in post-1989 China;
  • The emergence of Internet in the 1990s and the paradoxical nature of “Internet sovereignty”;
  • Author’s positionality and reflection on writing the book.

About the book

The violent suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations is thought to be contemporary China’s most taboo subject. Yet despite sweeping censorship, Chinese culture continues to engage with the history, meaning, and memory of the Tiananmen movement. Made in Censorship examines the surprisingly rich corpus of Tiananmen literature and film produced in mainland China since 1989, both officially sanctioned and unauthorized, contending that censorship does not simply forbid—it also shapes what is created. You can find more about the book here by Columbia University Press.

Author: Thomas Chen graduated with a B.A. in Comparative Literature and English from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA. With a focus on modern Chinese literature and cinema, his research interests include world literature/cinema, translation studies, and historiography. His book Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen Movement in Chinese Literature and Film is available from Columbia University Press.

Host: Ignatius Suglo is Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication. He completed his Ph.D. in China Studies at the University of Hong Kong. He also has a secondary specialization in African Studies. His research interests include transregional media histories with specific focus on Africa–China relations, knowledge production and circulation, digital diasporas, and Africa–China relations during the Cold War. Suglo is currently working on a book manuscript on how knowledge about Africa is produced and circulated in Chinese media from the nineteenth to twenty-first century.

Editor & Producer: Jing Wang

Keywords: Censorship, Literature, Film, Tiananmen, Media Event, Women, China

Our podcast is part of the multimodal project powered by the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. At CARGC, we produce and promote critical, interdisciplinary, and multimodal research on global media and communication. We aim to bridge academic scholarship and public life, bringing the very best scholarship to bear on enduring global questions and pressing contemporary issues.

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Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication

The Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication produces and promotes scholarly research on global media, communication, and public life. Our work brings together “area studies” knowledge with theory and methodology in the humanities and social sciences to understand how local, lived experiences of people and communities are profoundly shaped by global media alongside cultural and political-economic forces.

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