Mila Zuo

Assistant Professor

Department of Theatre and Film


Mila Zuo is an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC. Her research areas include transnational Asian cinemas; film-philosophy; abject epistemologies; star studies; digital and new media; and critical theories of gender, sexuality, and race and ethnicity.

Her book Vulgar Beauty: Acting Chinese in the Global Sensorium (Duke University Press, 2022) focuses on the affective racialization of Chinese women film stars, demonstrating the ways which vulgar, flavourful beauty disrupts Western and colonial notions of beauty. Accompanying research can be found in Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theoryCelebrity Studies JournalJournal of Chinese Cinemas, Feminist Media Histories journaland in various anthologies. In addition to her scholarly work, Zuo writes, directs, and produces narrative films, visual essays, documentaries, and music videos. Her short films have screened in international film festivals and universities, including Carnal Orient (2016) which premiered at Slamdance Film Festival, and her short narrative film Kin (2021), which was the recipient of the 2019 Oregon Media Arts Fellowship, and screened at HollyShorts Film Festival.

Select publications:

Vulgar Beauty: Acting Chinese in the Global Sensorium (Duke University Press, 2022)

“Dull Sex in a Messy Square: Traumatic Boredom in Lou Ye’s Summer Palace (2006),” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 29:2 (2019): 103-124.

“Détourning Asia/America With Valerie Soe,” (Director, Visual Essay), Feminist Media Histories 5:4 (2019): 56-58, special issue, “Activism,” ed. by Angela J. Aguayo and Alexandra Juhasz. Available at (pw: jfmh).

“Tasting Embarrassment, or, Liking Leo,” Post 45, Yale University, December 9, 2019.

“Gifting Beauty: The Exploitations of Fan Bingbing,” Exploiting East Asian Cinemas: Genre, Circulation, Reception, ed. by Ken Provencher and Mike Dillon (New York: Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2018): 111-131.

“Unbecomings in East Asian Women’s Cinema: Naomi Kawase, Yim Soon-rye, and Li Yu,” The Handbook of Asian Cinema, ed. by Gina Marchetti, Tan See Kam, and Aaron Magnan-Park (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018): 529-558.

“Bodies, Blood, and Love: the ‘Touching’ Politics of HIV/AIDS film Love for Life,” Journal of Chinese Cinemas 9.3 (2015): 204-222.

“Sensing ‘Performance Anxiety’: Zhang Ziyi, Tang Wei, and Female Film Stardom in the People’s Republic of China,” Celebrity Studies 6:4 (2015): 519-537.