There is a long oral tradition and written record for the legend of the White Snake. As a woman, her “original sin” is being a snake. She is a snake who has cultivated herself for hundreds of, if not thousands of years to attain the form of a beautiful woman. Living as a resident “alien” (yilei) in the “Human Realm” (renjian), the White Snake has always been treated with suspicion, fear, exclusion, and violent suppression. The White Snake is an immigrant to the human world, whose serpentine identity made her a “resident alien,” the legal category given to immigrants in the United States before they receive their “Green Card” and become a “permanent resident.” The implication of being a snake woman in the human world took on new meanings when the Covid-19 pandemic worsened the existing xenophobia, fear, and suspicion toward minority populations in contemporary United States and throughout the world. Inspired by the Chinese White Snake legend, the three diverse, female-authored anglophone opera, film, and stage projects at the center of this talk, from Cerise Lim Jacobs, Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, and Mary Zimmerman, energetically engage with issues relevant to minority activism through digital media and digital platforms.
Liang Luo is a Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Kentucky and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Tianjin Normal University in China. She is the author of The Global White Snake (Michigan, 2021) and The Avant-Garde and the Popular in Modern China (Michigan, 2014). She is working on a new book and documentary project, Profound Propaganda: The International Avant-Garde and Modern China.