Emily Wilcox is assistant professor of modern Chinese studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research focuses on the body and performance as sites of cultural politics in the People’s Republic of China. 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.” Her work combines history, ethnography, and textual analysis, examining performance as an intersection of art, politics, and everyday life in China from the 1940s to the early twenty-first century. Challenging the conventional view that Maoist dance culture was dominated by the aesthetics of Soviet ballet, Dr. Wilcox’s work explores the radical potential embodied in contemporary indigenous dance styles initially developed between 1937 and 1965, which enjoyed a resurgence following the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s. She argues that these forms — derived from folk dances, operatic theater, martial arts, and devotional art — have been the site of sustained, but largely unexplored, anti-colonial dance practices throughout the PRC era. Seeking an alternative to Eurocentric Cold War area studies models, Dr. Wilcox’s work calls for a deeper examination of intra-Asian and tricontinental cultural exchange and at global decolonization more generally as a framework for understanding contemporary Chinese culture.
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). Her disciplinary orientation is critical cultural studies, with a special attention to corporeality as it articulates with the politics and aesthetics of gender, ethnicity, race, and nationalism. 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.