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Symposium - Space to Speak: Non-Han Fiction and Film in China and Beyond

Friday 7 - Saturday 8 September, 2018
Weetwood Hall, Leeds

This year, our symposium is focusing on non-Han literature and film, supported by a MEITS (Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies) grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The symposium is entitled ‘Space to Speak: Non-Han Fiction and Film in China and Beyond’, and will look at the ways in which writers and directors are finding space for their own stories and voices, both in Chinese and in their own languages.

The event will bring together authors, translators, academics and others working in the field to discuss how authors and film-makers are negotiating with with standardized Mandarin and their own languages in their work, in order to find their own linguistic and artistic space.


Friday 7th September

10:00 -10:30
Welcome/Introduction to the Centre                 

Session 1:    Writing "Chinese"?

Guo Xuebo 郭雪波 : author talk

Roundtable 1      

12:15 -1:15

Session 2:    Non-Han fiction in translation

Bruce Humes: The Role of Han Characters in Contemporary Ethnic Novels: Essential to the Plot, or Just a “Token” Presence?

Roundtable 2

(lead speakers: Nicky Harman, Françoise Robin, Brigitte Duzan) 


Session 3:    Sinophone Tibetan writing

Yangdon Dhondup: Sinophone Tibetan Literature

Free time 

Session 4:    Tibet on Screen

Film, and buffet dinner & drinks

Saturday 8th September

Session 5:    Realities and Challenges

Rahima Mahmut presentation

Nick Holdstock presentation

Q&A and Roundtable 3
(lead speakers: Ablimit Baki, Feride Ibrahim, Diane Nelson, Peter Goff)


Session 6:    Representation and Performance

Mark Bender - Collaboration and Translation of Southwestern Epics: The Nuosu Book of Origins and Other Projects

Q&A and Roundtable 4
 (lead speakers: Françoise Robin, Kate Costello, Tim Thurston)


Session 7:    Readings/performances and concluding remarks



 Mark Bender

Mark Bender is Professor in Chinese and Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures of The Ohio State University. He specializes in three areas: oral literature of local Han and ethnic minorities in China, traditional Chinese performance and contemporary ethic minority poetry in China and borders. His has published on a multitude of subjects, including Suzhou pingtan (professional storytelling) and the oral and written literatures of Chinese minority cultures, such as the Yi, Miao, and Daur. His most recent book is The Borderlands of Asia: Culture, Place, Poetry, which features poems by 48 poets in North East India, Myanmar, Southwest China, Inner Mongolia, and Mongolia (Cambria Press, 2017). Other projects include an annotated translation of a major epic of the Yi people of Southwest China, eco-poetry in Eastern Asia, and practices of self-cultivation in Asia.

Kate Costello

Kate Costello is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, specializing in modern Chinese literature and culture. Her doctoral thesis examines bilingualism, language games and word play in modern and contemporary experimental literature. Her research focuses on the relationship between bilingualism and linguistic experimentation, investigating the ways that multiple language competencies are deployed within a literary text. Paying special attention to the creative manipulation of sound, script, and syntax, her dissertation examines the playful, devious and irreverent ways that bilingual competencies manifest themselves in experimental writing.

 Yangdon Dhondup

Yangdon Dhondup is a research associate at SOAS University of London. Her research interests lie in the field of contemporary Tibetan studies, with emphasis on literature, art, music, and culture.

 Brigitte Duzan

Brigitte Duzan is a French sinologist, linguist and translator. She founded the websites and, and is co-founder of the Chinese Ciné-club at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO), as well as the Chinese Reading Club at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Paris (October 2017), amongst other things. Her current research incudes contemporary Chinese literature, with a special focus on short stories. Recent translations include 'J’ai écrasé un mouton '《撞死了一只羊》by Pema Tseden, which was adapted to the screen and published on (August 26, 2018).

Ablimit Baki Elterish

Ablimit is a Senior Language Tutor of Chinese at the University of Manchester. Besides teaching language courses, Ablimit also teaches courses related to Xinjiang Studies at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. His research area is the relationship between languages (Uyghur and Chinese) and society in Xinjiang.

Peter Goff

Peter Goff is manager of The Bookworm, which runs independent bookshops and cafes in China, and director of the annual Bookworm Literary Festival. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from City University of Hong Kong, and is currently pursuing a PhD in East Asian Studies with the University of Leeds. His research examines the interaction between the contemporary publishing scene in China and the state.

Guo Xuebo 郭雪波

Guo Xuebo was born in Kunlun Banner on Inner Mongolia's Horqin Desert in 1948 and currently lives in Beijing. He has written a dozen or so novels, and many short stories, often revolving around aspects of Mongolian culture. A collection of his short stories has appeared in English (The Desert Wolf), French (La renarde du désert) and Japanese (砂漠物語). His novel 蒙古里亚 (working title: Mongoliya) is currently being translated by Bruce Humes. An excerpt from it, The Mongol Would-be Self-immolator, has been published by the Asia-Pacific Journal.

 Nicky Harman

Nicky Harman lives in the UK. She is co-chair of the Translators Association (Society of Authors) and is on the Advisory Board for our Writing Chinese project. She taught on the MSc in Translation at Imperial College until 2011 and now translates full-time from Chinese. She focusses on fiction, literary non-fiction, and occasionally poetry, by authors such as Chen Xiwo, Yan Ge, Han Dong, Hong Ying, Dorothy Tse, Xinran, Yan Geling and Zhang Ling. When not translating, she spends time promoting contemporary Chinese fiction to the general English-language reader.

 Nick Holdstock

Nick Holdstock is the author of two books about Xinjiang, The Tree That Bleeds and China's Forgotten People, and Chasing the Chinese Dream, a book on aspiration and urbanisation in China. He's also the author of a novel, The Casualties, and writes for publications like the TLS, the LRB and the Guardian.' @NickHoldstock

Bruce Humes

Keen to experience socialism with Chinese characteristics back in the ’80s, Bruce Humes first took a detour to Taipei and Hong Kong but went on to reside in Shanghai, Kunming and Shenzhen. He specializes in translating Chinese-language fiction by or about China’s non-Han peoples, particularly those who speak an Altaic tongue, such as the reindeer-herding Evenki (Last Quarter of the Moon) and the Uyghur in Xinjiang (Confessions of a Jade Lord). He headed online content development at Chief Executive China, hosts the blog非漂 [Fēi Piāo], and periodically obeys the primal urge to leave the China womb for character-building foreign language immersion classes in cities such as Paris, St. Petersburg, Kyoto and Istanbul. On the 2018 agenda: Kiswahili in Dar es Salaam.

 Feride Ibrahim

Feride is a former Associate Professor of Literature at Kashgar University (KU) in Xinjiang, China. She taught various courses of literature to Uyghur students and the Uyghur language to international students, both at KU. After relocating in the UK, she has jointly translated I Am Malala into Uyghur, which was published by the Xinjiang People’s Publishing House in 2016. Currently, she is working on a joint-project of translating Cambridge English Dictionary into Uyghur. Feride is also the Headteacher of Manchester Uyghur School.

Rahima Mahmut

Rahima Mahmut is a translator, singer and human rights activist based in London. She sings with the London Uyghur Ensemble (, and her translation of The Land Drenched in Tears, by Söyüngül Chanishef, received a PEN Translates grant, and is about to be published by Hertfordshire Press.

 Diane Nelson

Diane Nelson is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Leeds. Her research interests include theoretical syntax, animacy, case, language evolution, endangered languages and syntactic language disorders. She co-edited Saami Linguistics (John Benjamins, 2007). Ongoing collaborative research projects which she engages with include work on Uralic syntax, with Finnish, Saami and Meadow Mari. She has also worked on Icelandic and on Khalkh Mongolian. Her other language interests include Turkish, Laz and Kartvelian. In 2015, she co-organised the Workshop on Animacy in Language and Cognition at the University of Leeds. She is one of the organisers of the Leeds Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems

Françoise Robin

 Françoise Robin is a professor of Tibetan language and literature at INALCO (France). Her research interests include social change in contemporary Tibet, as well as emerging trends in literature and cinema. She has published widely on these issues, as well as on the Tibetan language, and she has translated works of Tibetan literature into English and French.

Tim Thurston

 Timothy Thurston gained his PhD in Chinese Studies from The Ohio State University and is currently lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds. His research examines ethnic minority languages and cultures in contemporary China with an emphasis on Tibet. This includes an ongoing project translating and analyzing, language and modernism in post-Mao Tibetan comedy, as well as a new project on cultural heritage and cultural sustainability in Western China. Tim's articles and translations have been published in a range of journals, including Asian EthnologyAsian Highlands Perspectives, CHINOPERL: the Journal of Chinese Oral and Performance Literature, and Journal of Asian Studies.

 Helen Wang

Helen Wang is a London-based contributor to Paper Republic and co-tweets with translator Nicky Harman on @cfbcuk (China Fiction Book Club UK). She is one of the four editors of Read Paper Republic – working with Nicky Harman, Dave Haysom and Eric Abrahamsen. In September 2016, she started a new project Chinese books for young readers, with Anna Gustafsson Chen and Minjie Chen. She won the 2017 Marsh Award for Literature in Translation for her translation of Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan.