Anime’s Knowledge Cultures talk

BOOK TALK: Anime’s Knowledge Cultures: From Astro Boy to China’s Zhai Generation, by Professor Jinying Li

Title: Anime’s Knowledge Cultures: From Astro Boy to China’s Zhai Generation
Speaker: Professor Jinying Li, Brown University, USA
Moderator: Professor Baryon Posadas, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, HK
Format: 40-50 minutes’ lecture, followed by around 30 minutes’ Q & A
Time: 9:00-10:30am, May 16, 2024 (Thur, Hong Kong Time)
Zoom ID: 939 9388 3522
Password: ACASSHSS


This talk introduces the theses of my book Anime’s Knowledge Cultures that studies the historical and cultural formation of anime geekdom to illustrate the growing expansion of a transnational knowledge culture that had emerged since the 1980s with the rise of network society and information capitalism. It examines zhai culture in China as a case study to demonstrate the emergence and development of anime geekdom, along with the changing meanings and functions of knowledge, in a socially and historically specific context. It traces the emergence and development of zhai culture from the popular reception of Astro Boy as the first TV animation imported to China in the 1980s to the recent anime fandom that reshaped Chinese internet culture in the twenty-first century. The coming of age of the zhai generation amid China’s profound social and economic transformation in the past four decades provides a vivid picture of how a knowledge culture formed and evolved, along with the development of a new generation of Chinese workers and consumers, during the uneven transition from the industrial to the postindustrial economies. At the center of this cultural history is the shifting relationship between the zhai generation and the nation’s renewed interest in cultivating and soliciting skilled knowledge workers through institutional and market means. This historical study illuminates the changing meanings and significance of anime geekdom in relation to knowledge work in the context of China’s overwhelming social, cultural, and economic transformations.


Jinying Li is Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where she teaches media theory, animation, and digital culture in East Asia. Her first book, Anime’s Knowledge Cultures (University of Minnesota Press, 2024), explores the connection between the anime boom and global geekdom. She is now completing her second book, Walled Media and Mediating Walls. She co-edited two special issues on Chinese animation for the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, and a special issue on regional platforms for Asiascape: Digital Asia. She is currently co-editing the volume The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Digital Media. Jinying is also a filmmaker and produced two documentary TV series that were broadcasted nationwide in China through Shanghai Media Group (SMG). She is one of the co-writers of the animated feature film Big Fish and Begonia (Dayu Haitang, 2016).

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