Zhen Zhang

Associate Professor; Director, Asian Film & Media Initiative

Associate Professor Zhen Zhang

The main areas of my scholarly interests include Chinese-language film history in its cultural, aesthetic, political and gendered manifestations, within the broad frameworks of modernity, modernism and cosmopolitanism.  My first scholarly book, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema 1896-1937 (2005), articulates a cultural history of early Chinese cinema within the matrix of an exuberant metropolitan mass culture in the early decades of the twentieth century.  The interest in the dynamic relationship between the cinema and the city is also evident in the volume I edited, The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (2007). I have also been following and working on and with emerging independent film communities in China, especially in the advent of digital media.  This long-term engagement has resulted in DV-made China: Digital Subjects and Social Transformations after Independent Film (co-edited with Angela Zito) published in 2015.  My ongoing projects include a book on the melodramas of postwar Chinese cinemas across the PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong within the global and regional contexts of decolonization, modernization, and the cold war.

I am also deeply interested in both historical and contemporary trans-Asian exchanges in film and media culture. I am the founding director of the Asian Film and Media Initiative since 2012. It presents or co-sponsors screening programs and symposia and administers a minor in Asian Film and Media.  The AFMI also pursues collaborations with NYU Shanghai and NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as other institutions.

I am dedicated to teaching and advising. In addition to Chinese film history and Asian film history, I also offer courses related to transnational melodrama, martial arts film, documentary, and childhood studies.  The subjects of the doctoral projects I have supervised include Chinese queer cinemas, Mexican golden-age melodrama, early Bombay film culture, Taiwan exploitation film, East Asian coproduction during the Cold War, American independent auteur (John Cassavettes), and so on.

I have a strong conviction of the public function of my academic pursuits.  The curatorial and organizational work that I do at both NYU and outside, such as the biannual Reel China Documentary Festival since 2001, directly fuels my research and teaching.  In addition to programing Reel China and other events at NYU, I have co-organized and guest-curated film programs for the Film Society at Lincoln Center of Performing Arts, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Women Make Waves Film Festival in Taipei. 

Creative writing is a life long passion.  My publications in this realm include a poetry collection in Chinese, Dream Loft (1997), poems and essays in numerous journals and anthologies in multiple languages, including Poetry Across Oceans: Anthology of Chinese American Diaspora Poetry (2014). I am currently working on a memoire.

Awards and Fellowships:

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities (1998-1999); Society of Cinema Studies Dissertation Award (2000); Faculty Fellowship, the Project on Cities and Urban Knowledges at the International Center for Advanced Studies (NYU, 2000-01); J. P. Getty Fellowship in the History of Art and the Humanities (2001-2002); National Endowments for the Humanities Summer Stipend (2006); “Honorable mention for the first book” by the Modern Languages Association 2006; NYU Humanities Faculty Fellowship 2009-2010.


Undergraduate studies in China, Sweden & Japan
MA., University of Iowa
Ph.D., University of Chicago