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Charlie Yi Zhang


Ph.D., Gender Studies, Arizona State University, 2013

M.A., Communication Studies, Fudan University, 2007

B.A., English, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2002



Charlie Yi Zhang is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky. He specializes in neoliberal globalization and its cultural and material articulations through gender, sexuality, race, and class in the Asia-Pacific region. His first monograph, Dreadful Desires: The Uses of Love in Neoliberal China, was published by Duke University Press in 2022. At the center of Dreadful Desires is a vibrant landscape of public intimacy—as what Zhang calls “the borderless Loveland”—that subtends and underpins social upheavals across China and the globe. Drawing upon discursive analysis, empirical data, and ethnographic fieldwork as well as popular culture texts, he delineates how love is orchestrated as an apparatus of sentiments integrating individual subject making with exploitative biopolitics to serve collective interests of the Chinese state and transnational capital. On the one hand, his analysis unpacks the ways in which love is projected as a cluster of desirable potentialities that generate enduring attachment shaping people’s subjectivities, and how individual articulation of love is aligned with calculated regulation of population to reproduce labor force fueling China’s marketization and re-integration with the global economy. On the other hand, this engaged scrutiny casts light on the inherent contradiction between rationality and affect that spawns incessant ruptures within the transnational neoliberal system, such as unremitting resistance from the groups that are marginalized in the Loveland and escalating confrontation between the US and China. This book thus demonstrates how affect theory can be used as a heuristic device to reexamine challenges from neoliberalism, transnational labor exploitation, and rising authoritarianism for new possibilities of social change. Dreadful Desires won the 2023 Annual Book Prize of Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies.

Zhang's research has been published in leading journals of gender and sexuality studies, Asian studies, American studies as well as media and cultural studies. His teaching interests include social movements, gender across the world, feminist theory, affect theory, masculinities studies, body and biopolitics, queer of color analysis, transnational sexualities, gender and sexuality in East and Southeast Asia.

Selected Publications:



Charlie Yi Zhang. 2022. Dreadful Desires: The Uses of Love in Neoliberal China. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press (“Thought in the Act” series).

—Winner of the Annual Book Prize, the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, 2023.

—Shui-yin Sharon Yam and Charlie Yi Zhang. 2022. Dreadful Desires: A Conversation with Charlie Yi Zhang. Made in China Journal…

Reviewed in The China Quarterly, Critical Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, Anthropological Forum

Edited Special Issue

Feminist and Queer Critiques of Multiple Empires: The Case of Sinophone Asia. International Feminist Journal of Politics (with Wen Liu and Lin Li, in progress and due 2023). 

Journal Articles

Jingxue Zhang and Charlie Yi Zhang. “Enter with Green Code Only”: Biometric Citizenship and Fragmented Living in China. The Journal of Asian Studies (equal contribution by the authors, accepted).

Charlie Yi Zhang. The Megacity of Bangkok Rescaled through Queerness. The Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 62 no.3: 164-169.

Charlie Yi Zhang, Wen Liu, and Casey Lee. 2022. Racial Paranoia and Affective Cold Warism: Remapping Rival US-PRC Imperial Formations. Special Issue: From Anarchy to Chaos: Generation(s) of Empire, American Quarterly 74 no.3: 499-521.

Charlie Yi Zhang and Adam K. Dedman. 2021. Hyperreal Homoerotic Love in a Military-Monarchical Landscape—A Situated View of the Thai BL Industry. Feminist Media Studies 21 Vol.6: 1039-1043.

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2021. Releasing Masculinity for a More Just World: Lessons on How to “Be Water” in Hong Kong. The Journal of Asian Studies 80 no.3: 683-704.

—Winner of the Annual Paper Prize, the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, 2022.

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2018. Teaching Feminism as Slow Activism. Special Issue: Feminist Teaching for Social Justice, Feminist Formations 30 no.3: 198-208 (invited and editorially reviewed).

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2017. When Feminist Falls in Love with Queer: Dan Mei Culture as a Transnational Apparatus of Love. Feminist Formations 29 no.2: 121-146.

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2017. Revisiting the Trumpland from Critical Perspectives on Body (invited) (从西方身体理论的发展看“特朗普现象”). Literature and Culture Studies (文学与文化) Vol.2: 54-62.

—Winner of the “Excellent Paper of the Year” Award of Literature and Culture Studies, 2017.

—Reprinted in Information Center for Social Science of Renmin University of China, 2017 (《人大复印资料》全文转载, 2017).

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2016. Queering the National Body of Contemporary China. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 37 no.2: 1-27.

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2014. Deconstructing the Hyper-Masculine National and Transnational Hegemony in Neoliberal China. Feminist Studies 40 no.1: 13-38.

—Winner of the Best Paper Award for Graduate Students of Feminist Studies, 2012  

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2014. Untangling the Intersectional Biopolitics of Neoliberal Globalization: Asia, Asian and the Asia-Pacific Rim. Feminist Formations 26 no.3: 167-196.

Book Chapters 

Charlie Yi Zhang. A Body-Grounded View of China’s Neoliberal Transition. Feminist Studies: Foundations, Conversations, Applications, edited by Hemangini Gupta, Kelly Sharron, Carly Thomsen, and Abraham Weil. New York: Routledge (forthcoming). 

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2022. Speculative Mattering: Affect and the Stone that Becomes Valuable in Deep Time. The Routledge Companion to Gender and Affect, edited by Todd Reeser, 386-393. New York: Routledge. 

Wen Liu and Charlie Yi Zhang. 2022. Homonationalism as Site of Contestation and Transformation: On Queer Subjectivities and “Homo-transnationalism” across Sinophone Societies. In Homonationalism, Femonationalism and Ablenationalism: Critical Pedagogies Contextualised, edited by Angeliki Sifaki, C.L. Quinan, and Katarina Lončarević, 31-47. London: Routledge.

Srimati Basu and Charlie Yi Zhang. 2019. Family Law in Asia. Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History, edited by Howard Chiang, 527-532. Farmington Hills, MI: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Charlie Yi Zhang. 2018. Mapping the Will for Otherwise: Towards an Intersectional Critique of the Biopolitical System of Neoliberal Governmentality. Biopolitical Governance: Gender, Race and Economy edited by Hannah Richter, 139-159. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.