Eco-media events in China from yellow eco-peril to media materialism

Journal Article (Journal Article)

This article brings together recent writing on eco-media, media materialism, and racialized Otherness to rethink the place of China and Asia in debates about the Anthropocene. We begin by examining the nonwhite postapocalyptic futures imagined in Bong Joon-ho's sci-fi film Snowpiercer and argue that the film problematizes a persistent Western-centric bias in both the environmental humanities and the literature on media materialism. Inspired by the metaphoric power of Kronon, the industrial-waste-turned-explosive in Snowpiercer, we theorize the instantaneously mediated and circulated chemical dust explosions in Kunshan and Tianjin in 2014-15 as eco-media events-that is, spectacular and ephemeral moments in which the material processes of digital production link the old forms of resource extraction with our new lives of electronic gadgetry and media tool dependency. Writing against the discourse of Yellow Eco-peril, which depicts such events (in both academic and journalistic writings) through a racialized Eco-Otherness, we offer a counter-politics to reconnect mainland China to the very systems of globalized production and consumption-the deep earth mining, the slow violence of black lung disease, the factory work, the digital consumption practices-that have propelled and intensified the country's stupendous development as well as its ecological challenges. We find new work on eco-media and media materialism most productive, as it sheds light on three closely intertwined dimensions of eco-media events: time, body, and matter. Probing the deep entanglements between the human and the nonhuman, a critical engagement with these events presents new possibilities to think anew environmental humanities in China, across Asia, and globally.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Litzinger, R; Yang, F

Published Date

  • May 1, 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 12 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 22

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2201-1919

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1215/22011919-8142187

Citation Source

  • Scopus