Religion and Culture, Virginia Tech, United States of America
Fellowship : October 2021 to June 2022
Discipline(s) : Religion
Area(s) of expertise : Culture
Pays : United States of America
In this project, Zhange Ni studies fantasy novels published on the Internet in 21st century China. She defines Fantasy as a branch of fantasy literature that reinvents magic, superstition, that is, "false" or "irrational" ideas and practices rooted in popular traditions around the world that oppose modern science and the liberal model of religion through a form of internalized, privatized and depoliticized piety. Following the translation of contemporary Western discourses on science, religion and superstition, Chinese Fantasy first appeared in the form of martial arts fiction in the early twentieth century. The very anti-superstitious nation-state subsequently suppressed it. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Chinese Fantasy has come into its own with the revival of Chinese religions, including what was previously considered superstition and new media such as films, television, video games, and the Internet. In the vast ocean of fantasy novels, she distinguishes three sub-genres to conduct a text analysis - xiuzhen (the quest for immortality), daomu (tomb raiding) and danmei (homoerotic romances). She argues that they engage with the messy reality of contemporary China and demonstrate the post-socialist generation’s desire to navigate the labyrinth of global capitalism and seek alternative imaginaries beyond the dominant order.
Zhange Ni received her Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from the University Of Chicago Divinity School (2009), and worked as a research associate and visiting assistant professor at the “Women’s Studies in Religion” Program at Harvard Divinity School (2010-2011). She is currently an associate professor at the Department of Religion and Culture, Virginia Tech. Her first book The Pagan Writes Back: When World Religion Meets World Literature (2015) proposes “pagan criticism,” a new reading strategy that attends to the historical complexities and contingencies in literary texts and challenges both Christian and secularist assumptions regarding aesthetics and hermeneutics. She has written articles on secularism and religion-making in twentieth-century China on the one hand, religion and contemporary popular literature in the Euro-American West on the other. At IAS-Nantes, she will draft her second book manuscript The Cult of Fiction in the Age of the Internet: Chinese Religion, Online Fantasy, and Adventures beyond Global Capitalism. In addition, Ni is a writer of creative works in China, having published three books of poetry, three essay collections, and one novel.