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
China Institute, Centre for Creative Industries, Media and Screen Studies, Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts
BA (Peking University), MA (Tisch School of the Arts, NYU), PhD (University of Chicago)
Russell Square, College Buildings
Email address
Support hours
Thursdays, 4:00pm–6:00pm (in person) and by email appointment


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 spent most of her time on art practices. During her undergraduate years, she served as the president of the Society of Dream of the Red Chamber Studies. Therefore, it is unsurprising 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, and calligraphy. 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. 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. Concurrently, she is working on a second book project on the calligraphic imagination in contemporary Chinese art and emergent media. Expanding inquiries into the digital future, she has been a collaborating partner on the NEH-funded digital humanities research ‘The Media Ecology Project.’

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 Honorable Mention from the Association for Chinese Animation Studies, and among other awards.

At SOAS, she looks forward to working with faculty and students with diverse interests in the arts and cultures of China, art theory and criticism, cinematic arts, and digital art history.

Modules taught

  • Arts of Modern and Contemporary China (since 1800)
  • Chinese Contemporary Art
  • Place and Space in East Asian Art
  • Themes in the Art and Archaeology of East Asia

Contributions to team taught courses

  • Contemporary Art and the Global
  • Theory and Method in Art History
  • Theory and Method I
  • Theory and Method II
  • Research Skills Training Course
  • Global Film Industries
  • Art Theory and Practice in East Asia
  • Global Arts: Decentering Modernity (1800 on)
  • Photography of China: 1839-2021
  • Critical Thinking and Current Methods
  • Asia's Art Histories

Courses taught at the University of Chicago (prior to joining SOAS)

  • When True Love Came to China
  • East Asian Cinema
  • Media Aesthetics: Image
  • Introduction to Film Analysis

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


Contact Panpan