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Pei Li
Doctoral candidate, third cohort (2023-2026)

Queering the Documentation: Authenticity, Marginality and Affective Queerness in Independent Chinese Documentary

Queerness has emerged as a unique subject in independent Chinese documentary that partially shares the quintessential characteristics of seeking the truth from the facts, bearing witness and capturing the bottom-to-top authenticity of socially marginalized people on screen. Taking it as a point of departure, the research project will be exploring the queerness stuck in an impasse which is attributed to an inherent authority of Independent Chinese documentary that paranoidly endorses unsanctioned narrative, absolute truth-seeking and non-intervening documentation in the name of “indie-spirit”, particularly in the 1990s. 

However, it is not only committed to investigating the queer resistance either to this cinematic spectacle that tends to produce informative and authentic queer objects, or to instrumentalization of marginal queerness against Chinese “mainstream” narrative, but also designed to examine the queer possibilities and its affective power of documenting personal experiences, minor feelings and daily life that transcends the genre and challenges the conventional documentary reception. Shedding light on several independent Chinese documentaries spanning from the 1990s to the recent years such as Miss Jinxing (2000), We are Here (2015) and Will You Look at Me (2022), the research will be opening up new perspectives of scrutinizing independent Chinese documentary with a queer affective lens and highlighting the often overlooked academic discussions within this realm.

Fig. 1:
Screenshot from Will You Look At Me (Shuli Huang, China 2022), DVD.
Fig. 2:
Screenshot from We are Here (Shi Tou and Zhao Jing, China 2015), Cathayplay.


Pei Li is a PhD candidate in the Graduiertenkolleg “Configurations of Film” at Goethe University, Frankfurt / University of Mainz. She received her B.A. in Art History and her M.A. in Theater-, Film-, and Media Studies at Goethe University, Frankfurt. As one of the initiators of the Chinese-speaking queer-feminist community Queer Squad, Pei is committed to queer-feminist activism and community-building and has curated several Sinophone queer-feminist screenings and community-based events in multiple cities in Germany.