Shaoling Ma

Associate Professor


I am an interdisciplinary scholar and critical theorist of global Chinese history, literature, and media. At the broadest level, I am drawn to historical periods when geopolitical, socio-economic, and technological developments appear to provide external vantage points from which to navigate the landscape of cultural production, while, in fact, being resolutely embedded in the latter. My teaching and research interests include late nineteenth-century to contemporary Chinese and Southeast Asian cultural productions, media studies, and critical theory.

My first book, The Stone and the Wireless: Mediating China, 1861-1906 (Duke UP, 2021) asks what media studies can gain conceptually from the last few decades of the Manchu Qing dynasty (1644-1912), and what this politicized and semicolonial phase of Chinese history looks like when reviewed from the new and mostly foreign communicative technologies of its time such as telegraphy, telephony, phonography, and photography. The Stone and the Wireless argues that when Chinese intellectuals, writers, and revolutionaries wrote and illustrated their encounters with these devices, they inadvertently challenged existing notions of politics, tradition, and science, and thus reconfigured new sites of ideological struggle.

I am currently working on my second book, tentatively titled China in Loops, which examines how self-generating loops between technologies “themselves” and other societal forces in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Singapore produce the reciprocating realities and constructs of a global “Chinese” dominance from the 1960s to the contemporary period. Topics for other concurrent projects include the gendered transformations of labor in literature and cinema; cybernetics and systems thinking in socialist, post-socialist, and decolonizing Asian states; and Marxist media theory. I am member of the Advisory Board for the Technicities book series, Edinburgh University Press, and serve on the main Editorial Board for Cultural Politics, Duke University Press, and World Picture, University of Toronto Press. I’ve recently become Book Review Editor (film/media studies/drama) for the journal, MCLC: Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

Born in Taiwan, I grew up in Singapore where I obtained my B.A. and M.A. at the National University of Singapore. I then spent a decade in the U.S. where I earned my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California (2012) and had my first faculty position in the Departments of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at Pennsylvania State University (2013-15). Prior to joining Cornell University, I was Associate Professor of Literature at Yale-NUS College and the National University of Singapore.  



The Stone and the Wireless: Mediating China, 1861-1906. June 2021, Duke University Press, part of the “Sign, Storage and Transmission” series 


“The Farmer, the Influencer, and the Labors of Rural Self-Media," Comparative Literature Studies, Special Issue on “Redesigning Modernities,” 2023. Forthcoming July/August 2023.  

“Big Earths of China: Remotely Sensing Xinjiang Along the Belt and Road.” Critical Inquiry, 49.1 (Autumn 2022): 77-101. Print and Online. 

“Pauses, Cuts, and Static Interference: The Media Forms of Merger and Separation in Malaysia and Singapore.” positions: asia critique, 28.4 (Nov 2020): 841-868. Print.  

“Stone, Jade, Medium: A Neocybernetics New Story of the Stone (1905-1906).”  Configurations: A Journal of Science, Literature, and Technology, 26.1 (Winter 2018): 1-26. Print.   

“To Compare Otherwise: Dialectics and The Work of Comparison in Structural Totality.” Mediations: Journal of the Marxist Literary Group, 31. 1 (Fall 2017). Online.

In the news

ASIAN Courses - Spring 2024

ASIAN Courses - Fall 2024