China Institute, Centre for Creative Industries, Media and Screen Studies, Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Dr Panpan Yang

Key information

Department of History of Art and Archaeology Centre for Creative Industries, Media and Screen Studies Lecturer in the Arts and Visual Cultures of Modern China China Institute Academic Staff
BA (Peking University), MA (Tisch School of the Arts, NYU), PhD (University of Chicago)
Russell Square, College Buildings
Email address
Support hours
on research leave 2023–24


An interdisciplinary scholar by training, Panpan Yang works at the intersections of art history, screen studies, and East Asian studies.

She is particularly interested in a form of art historical writing that has conceptual dimensions or involves methodological innovations. Her work demonstrates a multimethodological approach, which is attentive to archival research, material practices, close visual analysis, computer-aided vision, and cross-cultural modes of theorisation.

She received a dual BA from Peking University, where she double majored in art and philosophy. During her undergraduate years, she served as the president of the Society of Dream of the Red Chamber Studies. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to her scholarly friends that Redology, especially the visual and material world that the novel Hong lou meng opens up, has long been a secondary field of academic interest for her. In August 2020, she completed a joint PhD at the University of Chicago, working under the direction of an unusually large dissertation committee, including Wu Hung, Tom Gunning, W. J. T. Mitchell, Judith Zeitlin, and Dana Polan. She is said to have set the record as the only University of Chicago doctoral student who fulfilled the double requirements of two departments within a five-year span. With Judith Zeitlin, she co-convened an interdisciplinary conference titled ‘Connecting the Dots Through Guo Baochang: Contemporary Chinese Opera, Film, TV’ in 2019.

She is currently completing her first book on the history of Chinese animation from the 1920s to the present, with a focus on animation’s encounters with other artforms, including photography, painting, calligraphy, and porcelain. One goal of this book is to set a model for the formal analysis of animation, which borrows vocabulary from both art history and screen studies. In the book, she proposes a form of trans-spatial thinking to examine contemporary Chinese animation: to trace, document, and explain how the meaning of a work of Chinese animation subtly changes when it moves in and out of the world of the film industry, the sphere of contemporary art, and other spaces. 

With Shane McCausland, she is currently the Principal Investigator of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded research project on calligraphic imagination in contemporary Chinese art and emergent media (2023-25). Expanding inquiries into the digital future, she has been a collaborating partner on the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)-funded digital humanities research ‘The Media Ecology Project.’ Her research has also been supported by the Getty Foundation, the Sino-British Fellowship Trust, and others.

Panpan is also an award-winning scriptwriter, animator, graphic designer, and game designer. Most of her films take inspiration from art historical sources. Bringing her media production experience into the classroom, she is celebrated by her students as a dedicated and creative teacher. She is the recipient of China’s National Young Screenwriter Award, the Domitor Essay Award, the Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award Nomination, and an Honourable Mention from the Association for Chinese Animation Studies, and among other awards.

In 2021, Panpan joined SOAS as a lecturer (assistant professor) in the Arts and Visual Cultures of Modern China. Since then, she has been working closely with faculty and graduate students with diverse interests in the arts and cultures of China, art theory and criticism, cinematic arts, and digital art history.

Research interests

Panpan Yang’s research explores the possibilities of a minor discourse to deterritorialise the terrains of both art history and screen studies.

Her areas of academic interests include

  • the arts and visual cultures of China and the Sinophone world
  • cinemas in East and Southeast Asia
  • animation
  • digital arts
  • new media
  • art theory and criticism
  • cultural flows
  • interactions between Chinese and African arts
  • space, place, and landscape
  • medium and materiality
  • intermediality
  • gender and genre
  • Chinese literature
  • ethnic minorities in China
  • Teochew opera, cinema, and material cultures


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