Emily Wilcox is assistant professor of modern Chinese studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is a specialist in the performance culture of twentieth and twenty-first century China, with a focus on dance and the moving body as a live and cinematic medium. In 2014-15 Dr. Wilcox is the recipient of a humanities fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, for her book project “National Movements: Socialist Postcoloniality and the Making of Chinese Dance.” Challenging the conventional view that Maoist dance culture was dominated by the importation of Soviet ballet, this project explores the previously unexamined history of socialist China’s contemporary native dance movement, an artistic practice that first peaked in the 1950s and early 1960s, at the height of early Maoism. This period saw intensive international exchange between Chinese dance artists and artists working in other parts of Asia, as well as in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. The dance forms that emerged — derived from folk dances, regional operatic theater, martial arts, and devotional art — reflect self-conscious efforts on the part of Chinese dance artists and the Maoist cultural regime to challenge the proposed universality of Western dance forms such as ballet and modern dance, enacting a cultural politics of indigeneity that articulated with transnational processes of decolonization, non-alignment, and global leftism. Through an examination of the history of Chinese dance after WWII, this book calls for deeper inquiry into the historical intersections between anti-colonialist and socialist cultural movements during the mid-twentieth century, as a framework for understanding both contemporary Chinese culture and global dance history.
Emily Wilcox received her AB in social anthropology from Harvard University (2003), her MPhil in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge (2004), and her PhD in medical anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley (2011). She has been a visiting scholar at the Beijing Dance Academy, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, a Fulbright scholar, a Blakemore Freeman Fellow, and a recipient of other grants and scholarships for research in Chinese studies. Dr. Wilcox joined the University of Michigan faculty in the fall of 2013 after teaching modern Chinese literary and cultural studies at the University of California, Davis, and the College of William and Mary. She is president-elect of the Association for Asian Performance and a board member of the Society for Dance History Scholars. Her publications appear in Asian Theatre Journal, Body and Society, CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature, Journal for the Anthropological Study of Human Movement, Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, TDR: the Drama Review, Wudao Pinglun (Dance Review), and other venues.