Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Comparative Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This study theorizes the medium of dubbing as representing and mediating the image and meaning of the foreign to the Chinese in the Maoist period (1949-1976). After 1949, dubbed foreign films rose to be an outstanding cultural phenomenon in China, and became a most important tool for socialist pedagogy. Rather than understanding these films as transparent vehicles of meanings and examining their circulation and reception, this dissertation looks into the specific translating and dubbing processes, analyzing not only the content of the dialogue, but also the techniques, aesthetics, and politics of voicing. It demonstrates that the experiences with foreign films in Mao’s China were not only about watching but largely about listening, which were informed and shaped by a series of ideological and technological calculations and negotiations. Highlighting dubbing not only as a way of translation but also a genre of vocal performance, I develop this study with four interrelated topics, including 1) the birth of dubbing and the Soviet influence, 2) the accents of dubbing and the characterization of ethnicity, 3) dubbing as emotional mobilization, or how cross-cultural identification became possible, and 4) the stardom of dubbing actors, especially those for the negative characters. Born in Maoist China and the Cold War world, the Chinese dubbing project carried with it the mission of ideological education, especially the promotion of emotional identification towards the foreign allies among the local audience. To serve these purposes, the voice performance of dubbing was closely associated with and shaped by other performance forms in socialist China, and it strived to mobilize the actors and the audience affectively, molding them into qualified socialist subjects. However, simultaneously submitting themselves to and negotiating with the propagandist control of the translating and dubbing practices, dubbing practitioners produced ambiguous foreign characters as well as alternative meanings for the Chinese audience. What’s more, the audience also developed new ways of listening to the films, which further challenged the intended ideological messages and the goals of the films. In conclusion, dubbing not only furnished the state with new techniques to educate its people and promote its Cold War policy, but also became the vehicle for Chinese film workers as well as the audience to imagine the foreign, the world order, and themselves alternatively.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Lingchei Chen

Committee Members

Zhao Ma, Diane Lewis, John Powers, Jie Li,

Available for download on Monday, August 19, 2041