Standing in for Anna May Wong; Standing with Anna May Wong

by Yiman Wang (University of California, Santa Cruz)        

Abstract: My study focuses on Anna May Wong who remained single and childless for her entire life. I trace and examine the sisterly connections she forged and strove to forge throughout her four-decade performance career with her siblings, co-workers, contemporaneous actresses in China, and potentially with her female and gender non-conforming fans, practitioners and critics. Mobilizing production files and publicity materials from Euro-American and Chinese archives, I understand Wong’s sisterly connections in multiple valences such as erasure, replacement, doubling, surrogacy, friendship and alliance. By ‘showing and telling’, I ponder the ways in which sisterly interactions were essential to Wong’s construction of an enduring and multi-faceted performance career, and to our method of reviving her diachronic and transnational significance. 

Yiman Wang is Associate Professor of Film & Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Remaking Chinese Cinema: Through the Prism of ShanghaiHong Kong and Hollywood (2013) and Editor of the Asian Media special issue of Feminist Media Histories (2019). She is currently writing a book on Anna May Wong. She has also published numerous journal articles and book chapters on border-crossing stardom, transnational Chinese cinema, Chinese documentaries, comedy and animation.