Current Projects

Bamboo Wireless: Mediating the Cold War in Asia (book manuscript in preparation)

Time Exposures: Catholic Photography and the Evolution of Modern China, co-authored with Anthony E. Clark (book manuscript in preparation)

“Coincident Images: Chinese Christian Posters, Sino-Western Encounters, and Transnational Visual Culture,” in Saving China: Chinese Christian Propaganda Posters in an Age of Revolution, 1919–1951, Daryl R. Ireland, ed. (Baylor University Press)

What are the global historical origins of Chinese Christian posters’ visual rhetoric? And how did they speak to other media forms in their shared times and spaces? In message and medium, these posters embodied hidden intersections between visual appropriation and encounters with imaging technologies in the missionary and Chinese Christian enterprise. Drawing from recently-uncovered multimedia sources, this essay reveals how posters translated global Christian visual imaginations across the late 19th and 20th centuries, often in surprising ways. They were linked to Sunday School teachers’ chalkboard diagrams in the late-19th century United States, Protestant-Catholic divisions over iconographic representations, missionary photographs and motion pictures in interwar China, and evangelistic murals painted on the walls of rural missions.

By exploring these visual lives and afterlives, this essay illuminates how the broad genealogies of Chinese Christian posters lie in visual cultures in and beyond modern China, capturing glimpses of transnational visuality that are “more than meets the eye.”

“Through the Narrow Gate: Visual Performativity and Cinematic Translations of Missionary Transnationalism in China,” in Translation as Practice: Intercultural Encounters, China, and the Creation of Global Modernities, Filippo Marsili and Eugenio Menegon, eds. (Edinburgh University Press)

As movie audiences settled into seats around the 20th century world, the films they encountered on the silver screen featured the character of the missionary in China – equal parts hero(ine) and hapless victim, foreign interloper and embedded ally. This essay explores how missionaries as filmmakers or cinematic tropes reflected Sino-US ideals and anxieties about the other, translated by the colliding worlds of missions, Hollywood, and transpacific encounters.

I trace the ways in which missionaries-as-mediators blurred the lines between on-screen and on-the-ground experiences. At times, they served as technical advisors for the films that featured their characters, or as cinema critics in their own right, pointing out distortions of communities and environments in which they worked. In counterpoint, their on-screen portrayals provided lenses through which US commercial filmmakers projected ideas about gender and sexual tension, racial difference, and colonial and postcolonial conflicts – from warlord-era clashes in Republican China to the Cold War in East Asia. In doing so, I argue that the missionary trope and its evolutions on screen represented highly mutable visions of American presence in China and global imaginations of modern Chinese identities.