Zhen Zhang


Associate Professor Zhen Zhang

The main areas of my academic interests include trans-Asian and Sinophone film history and historiography in their heterogenous cultural, aesthetic and gendered manifestations, within the changing geo-political and media ecology of modernity, decoloniality, and cosmopolitanism. My first scholarly book, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema 1896-1937 (2005), articulates an inter-media 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 relationships between cinema, architecture and 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). Through participant observation and academic activism, I have been working on/with independent film communities and feminist practices across the Taiwan Strait, 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 (2015, co-edited with anthropologist Angela Zito) and a monograph, Women Filmmakers in Sinophone World Cinema (2023). I am also the lead editor of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Asian Cinemas, a large collective project presenting innovative new approaches to Asian film studies.

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.

In terms of teaching and advising, in addition to Sinophone film history and Asian cinemas, I also teach subjects related to melodrama, documentary and childhood studies, and plan to offer a new course on eco-cinema and climate change. The subjects of the doctoral projects I have supervised include queer representations in Chinese-language cinema and the cultural landscape, sound and music in contemporary Chinese cinema, American independent auteur (John Cassavetes), cinema and sexual politics in post-authoritarian Indonesia, late colonial Bombay film culture, East Asian coproduction during the Cold War, a social history of Hong Kong martial arts cinema, Taiwan exploitation film, 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 work is an enduring passion and inspires my research and teaching. Works in this realm includes 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 have collaborated with Wen Hui, renowned choreographer and dancer, as a dramaturg on a multi-media performance and served as an executive producer on documentary projects.

Awards and Fellowships

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities; Society of Cinema Studies Dissertation Award; “Honorable mention for the first book” by the Modern Languages Association; Faculty Fellowship, the Project on Cities and Urban Knowledges at the International Center for Advanced Studies (NYU); J. P. Getty Fellowship in the History of Art and the Humanities; National Endowments for the Humanities Summer Stipend; NYU Center for Humanities Fellowship; University Fellowship, Hong Kong Baptist University; Dean's "Art of Future Imagination" curriculum development grant for "Asian and Asian-American Women Filmmakers" (NYU).


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