Erin Y. Huang

Oct 5, 2021

Urban Horror

Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility

Duke University Press 2020

Erin Y. Huang’s Urban Horror: Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility (Duke UP, 2020) is an expansive and ambitious book that explores the affective territory of “neoliberal post-socialist China” as it manifests in contemporary Chinese (language) cinema. Pushing beyond the geographic boundaries of the PRC and the confines of art cinema, Huang’s book reads the post-socialist condition as it manifests in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and across a variety of film genres. The term urban horror, derived from Engels’ writings on the industrial factory and theoretically developed in Huang’s book in conversation with Merleau-Ponty, Lefebvre, and Rancière, defines a “sociopolitical public affect that exceeds comprehension.” This affect, Huang argues, reappears in Chinese cinemas within and beyond the People’s Republic. 

In so doing, urban horror rehearses potential revolutionary dissent and resistance in the era of neoliberal post-socialism as it unfolds spaces beyond familiar post-socialist locales. As she works to address the changing grounds of China’s contemporary sociopolitical aesthetics, Huang considers the shifting meanings of the image as it travels between various genres and media materialities, including the intriguing “feminist blockbuster” and immersive cinema experiences. In the following interview, we discuss the questions that frame Huang’s inquiry and delve into the chapters that make up the body of her book. Readers and listeners should look forward not only to hearing about Huang’s elegant theoretical framing, but also to the compelling and lively close readings that showcase her argument across an exciting spectrum of Chinese media products.

Julia Keblinska is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Center for Historical Research at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.

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Julia Keblinska

Julia Keblinska is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Center for Historical Research at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.

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