Margaret Hillenbrand


Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture; Fellow of Wadham College 

Faculty / College Address:

China Centre / Wadham College


Research Interests:

My research focusses on literary and visual culture in twentieth-century China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, especially cultures of protest and secrecy. My most recent book is On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China (Columbia University Press, 2023), research for which was supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2020-2021) and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2021-2023). I am now working on a new project about the cultural politics of the face in Chinese visual culture during the era of biometric surveillance.

Selected Publications:


On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China, Columbia University Press, 2023. 408pp. [Podcasts/interviews about this book:; 

Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 320pp. [Podcasts/interviews about this book:].

Documenting China: An Interpretive Reader in Seminal Twentieth-Century Texts (with Chloë Starr), Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011. 240 pp. 

Literature, Modernity, and the Practice of Resistance: Japanese and Taiwanese Fiction, 1960-1990, Leiden: Brill, 2007. 362 pp. [Partly translated into Chinese as “Chongshen Meiguo baquan”, trans. Chang Yu-min, Tu Hsin-hsin, and Cheng Hui-wen, in Li Sher-shiueh (ed.), Yidi fanhua: haiwai Taiwan wenxue wenlun xuanyi, vol. 2, Taibei: National Taiwan University Press, 2012, 229-320].

Edited special issues

Guest editor, The Colour of Chinese Cinemas, special issue of Journal of Chinese Cinemas 6/3 (2012). 

Guest editor, Contemporary East Asia, in Theory, special issue of Postcolonial Studies 13/4 (2010). 

Journal articles

“The Cliffhangers: Suicide Shows and the Aesthetics of Protest in China”Cultural Politics 16/2 (2020): 147-170.

"Selling the Cryptosphere in China"Cultural Studies 34/4 (2020): 625-655.

"Ragpicking as Method"Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature 16/2 (2019): 260-297. 

“Remaking Tank Man, in ChinaJournal of Visual Culture 16/2 (2017): 127-166.

Letters of Penance: Writing America in Chinese and the Location of Chinese American Literature", MELUS 38/3 (2013): 44-66. [Recipient of the Katherine Newman best essay award from the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the US. Link to feature on Oxford University Press blog:]

Hero, Kurosawa, and a Cinema of Synaesthesia”Screen 54/2 (2013): 127-151.
[Chinese translation: “Yingxiong, Heize Ming he ganguan dianying”, trans. Chen Ziru, Dongwu xueshu (Soochow Academic) 6 (2017): 91-108].

“Chromatic Expressionism in Contemporary Chinese Cinemas”Journal of Chinese Cinemas 6/3 (2012): 211-231.

“Communitarianism, or, How to Build East Asian Theory”Postcolonial Studies 13/4 (2010): 317-334.

“Nostalgia, Place, and Making Peace with Modernity in East Asia”Postcolonial Studies 13/4 (2010): 383-402.
[Reprinted in Jeroen de Kloet and Lena Scheen (eds.), Spectacle and the City: Urbanity in Popular Culture and Art in East Asia, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013].

“Murakami Haruki in Greater China: Creative Responses and the Quest for Cosmopolitanism”Journal of Asian Studies 68/3 (2009): 715-747.

“Of Myths and Men: Better Luck Tomorrow and the Mainstreaming of Asian America Cinema”Cinema Journal 47/4 (2008): 50-75.
[Reprinted in Kathryn Karrh Cashin and Stacy Lynn Tanner (eds.), Multicultural Film: An Anthology, Boston: Pearson Publishing, 2011].

Doppelgängers, Misogyny, and the San Francisco System: the Occupation Narratives of Ôe Kenzaburô”Journal of Japanese Studies 33/2 (2007): 383-414.

“The National Allegory Revisited: Writing Private and Public in Contemporary Taiwan”positions: east asia cultures critique 14/3 (2006): 633-662.
[Chinese translation: “Guojia yuyan zaitan: dangdai Taiwan de gongzhong yu simi shuxie”, trans. Chang Hsueh-mei, in Chiu Tzu-hsiu (ed.), Kua wenhua de xiangxiang zhutixing: Taiwan houzhimin/nüxing yanjiu lunshu, Taibei: National Taiwan University Press, 2012, 295-332].

“Trauma and the Politics of Identity: Form and Function in Narratives of the February 28th Incident”Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 17/2 (2005): 49-89.

Book chapters

“Voices of Empire in Dubliners and Taibeiren in Shu-mei Shih and Ping-hui Liao (eds.), Comparatizing Taiwan, New York and London: Routledge, 2014, 175-201.

The Personals: Backward Glances, Knowing Looks, and the Voyeur Film” in Chris Berry (ed.), Chinese Films in Focus 2, London, British Film Institute, 2008, 175-81.



“Kubi to karada” (Head and Body) by Wu Yongfu, tr. M. Hillenbrand, Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series 19: Special Issue on Taiwan Literature During the Period of Japanese Rule (2006): 39-49.


“Gu’er de yanjing. Wu Zhuoliu youjizhong de ziwo ningshi yu tazhe xiangxiang” (The Eyes of an Orphan: Gazing at the Self and Imagining the Other in the Travel Diaries of Wu Zhuoliu) by Jian Yiming, tr. M. Hillenbrand, Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series 15: Special Issue on Wu Zhuoliu (2004): 199-240.

Further Info:

Book series editor

East Asian Cinemas, Edinburgh University Press, 2012-: 

Seminar series

Convenor of the Oxford Seminar on Visual Culture in Modern and Contemporary China

Current and recent D.Phil. students

Kate Costello: “Writing Between Languages: Rethinking Bilingualism in Contemporary Chinese Literature”

Annabella Massey: “Cities of the Mind: New Urban Imaginaries in Contemporary Chinese Literary and Visual Culture”

Flair Donglai Shi: “The Yellow Peril Discourse in Anglophone and Sinophone Literatures, 1895 to the Present: Mutations, Reactions, and Reincarnations” (co-supervisor)

Xiaochu Wu: “The Aesthetics of Contemporary Chinese Feature Film”

Min Hui Yeo: “Working with the Other: Connections between the Malay- and Chinese-language Cinemas and Film Industries (1950s-1980s)"

Linqing Zhu: “Landscapes of the Heart”: Pictorial, Calligraphic, and Literary Traditions in Contemporary Chinese Film"

Hao Wang: "Imagining the World in Sinophone Literature and Visual Arts during WWII"

Aoife Cantrill: "Translating Kōminka: Shaping Narrative of Japanese Rule in Taiwan through Translation Post-1975"

Ziru Chen: "The Sensory Aesthetic of Contemporary East Asian Art Cinema"

Billy Beswick: "Intra-National Becoming: The Relational Construction of Ethnic and National Identity in the Visual and Literary Cultures of Taiwan and Tibet"