This project investigates the use and translation of English-language queer cinema in China as part of the local LGBTQ+ culture. Funded by the AHRC, it asks questions that are relevant across translation, media, film and queer studies: how are queer films translated and disseminated in China? How do translators and viewers negotiate imported cultural knowledges? How do translated films interact with the local LGBTQ+ culture? It analyses translated films and publicity materials, reviews, film screenings and festivals and interviews with key figures. It aims to engage audiences and academics in the discussion of this important topic.

This project analyses the use of Anglophone (North American, British, Australasian) queer cinema as a means of developing LGBT+ culture and rights in China. Despite the plethora of research on this cinema (e.g. Aaron 2004, Griffiths 2006, Rich 2013, Juett and Jones 2010) and global queer cinema (e.g. Schoonover and Galt 2016, Pecic 2016), there is little research on the translation of Anglophone queer films and their interactions with regional LGBT+ movements. Little or no research has studied how the consumption of these films in translation has been shaped by changing media ecologies.

Translating for Change fills this gap by investigating the relationship between Anglophone queer cinema and Chinese popular culture in the wider context of the Chinese LGBT+ rights movement. Although homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders in 2001 by China’s Ministry of Health, LGBT+ people continue to suffer discrimination and harassment. Media portraying homosexual and transgender topics have been strictly censored, limiting public discussion of sexual and gender identity in China (e.g. “General Rules of Internet Audiovisual Program Content Censorship”; China Netcasting Services Association 2017). This censorship has suppressed the development of domestic queer cinema, but stimulates the translation and consumption of international queer cinema (especially Anglophone) in China.

Recent work, mainly in sociology and gender studies, has analysed Chinese LGBT+ activism involving films, from independent queer filmmaking (e.g. Chao 2010) to the emergent queer media culture in China (e.g. Engebretsen, Schroeder and Bao 2015). Rather than focusing on the media representation of Chinese LGBT+ communities, this project explores how the unofficial translation and dissemination of Anglophone queer films participate in and shape the development of the LGBT+ rights movement and culture in China.

Collaborating with Aibai, a non-profit Chinese organization aiming at promoting equal rights for the LGBT+ community, QAFONE and Jihua Network, two of the most influential Chinese LGBT+ subtitling groups, this project will investigate the translation and discussion of Anglophone LGBT+ films in China and the screening of these translated films in important Chinese queer film events (e.g. Shanghai Pride film festival, Shanghai Queer Festival, Beijing Queer Film Festival, China Queer Independent Film Tour) as well as social events organized by Chinese LGBT+ organizations.

Our research will examine the key players involved in the translation and dissemination of Anglophone queer films and broaden existing research on transnational connections between Anglophone and Chinese LGBT+ movements. We will engage local Chinese LGBT+ communities and disseminate research findings through three seminars organized in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as hosting an exhibition and an international conference on queer cinema and international LGBT+ movements, bringing together UK and international academics, translators and representatives from international LGBT+ organizations. A report (in Chinese and English) will also be produced on the Chinese translation of international (especially Anglophone) queer cinema.

This project will deepen our understanding of the continuity and rupture between global and local queer cinematic culture and reveal the trends and complexities in the circulation of queer-related knowledge via film. Our research will provide valuable information about how new digital media technologies enable new possibilities and fora for Chinese queer culture. It will facilitate connections and dialogues among academics, professionals, translators and activists, and intervene in current debates about world queer cinema and global queer politics. Its focus on the intersection between queer cinematic culture and fan translation will offer a unique perspective on studies of digitalized LGBT+ politics.