Chinese Surplus

Biopolitical Aesthetics and the Medically Commodified Body

Chinese Surplus

Perverse Modernities: A Series Edited by Jack Halberstam and Lisa Lowe

More about this series

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 26 illustrations Published: March 2018

Asian Studies, Science and Technology Studies > Philosophy of Science, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

What happens when the body becomes art in the age of biotechnological reproduction? In Chinese Surplus Ari Larissa Heinrich examines transnational Chinese aesthetic production to demonstrate how representations of the medically commodified body can illuminate the effects of biopolitical violence and postcolonialism in contemporary life. From the earliest appearance of Frankenstein in China to the more recent phenomenon of "cadaver art," he shows how vivid images of a blood transfusion as performance art or a plastinated corpse without its skin—however upsetting to witness—constitute the new "realism" of our times. Adapting Foucauldian biopolitics to better account for race, Heinrich provides a means to theorize the relationship between the development of new medical technologies and the representation of the human body as a site of annexation, extraction, art, and meaning-making.


“A compelling account of how the aesthetics of corporeal politics has come to condition the rhetorics and epistemologies of life, realism, existence, authenticity, technology, reproduction, and the body itself, Chinese Surplus will forever change the way we think about the power of visual embodiment in an age of increasing angst over property/propriety rights, technological determinism, and human’s role in their imbricated historical legacy.” — Howard Chiang, Journal of the History of Biology

"In this important and complex work, Ari Larissa Heinrich continues his interrogation with the politics of the body through a systematic examination of various representations of the medically commodified body in contemporary Chinese and transnational literature, media, art, visual culture, and popular science. Incorporating both political economy and aesthetics, this examination opens up new ways to thinking about the interrelationship and interpenetration between science, medicine, commodity, and the arts in modern and contemporary environments." — Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History and East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

Chinese Surplus is a timely, deeply moving, and consequential work, one that is both intellectually and affectively engaging. It significantly advances contemporary debates about the international division of humanity, affective and immaterial labor, biopolitics and biopower, imperial legacies, and globalization. A model of interdisciplinary scholarship, its ambitious originality will become a yardstick against which future studies will be measured.” — Lisa Lowe, author of The Intimacies of Four Continents


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Open Access

Fall 2019 Sale
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ari Larissa Heinrich teaches in the Literature Department at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The Afterlife of Images: Translating the Pathological Body between China and the West, also published by Duke University Press, and coeditor of Embodied Modernities: Corporeality, Representation, and Chinese Cultures.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Biopolitical Aesthetics and the Chinese Body as Surplus  1
1. Chinese Whispers: Frankenstein, the Sleeping Lion, and the Emergence of a Biopolitical Aesthetics  25
2. Souvenirs of the Organ Trade: The Diasporic Body in Contemporary Chinese Literature and Art  49
3. Organ Economics: Transplant, Class, and Witness from Made in Hong Kong to The Eye  83
4. Still Life: Recovering (Chinese) Ethnicity in the Body Worlds and Beyond  115
Epilogue. All Rights Preserved: Intellectual Property and the Plastinated Cadaver Exhibits  139
Notes  159
Bibliography  227
Index  239
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7053-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7041-3
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