Convergences: Summoning Creativity in Shanghai

A Series of Conversations 
Shanghai Studies Society & Night@RAM

An Evening with Angela Zito

March 22, 7:00 – 9:00
20 Huqiu Road 
Supported by 
NYU Shanghai 
& the Rockbund Art Museum  



Convergences, the second series of conversations on urban creativity initiated by Francesca Tarocco and Anna Greenspan in collaboration with Rockbund Art Museum and NYU Shanghai, sees internationally renowned thinkers and practitioners explore, map out and imagine the temporal and spatial landscape of the city.

Convergences stages a set of encounters in space and time, bringing international scholars and practitioners to engage with the local particularities of contemporary Shanghai culture. In particular, the series is interested in how rituals of the everyday connect, collide and converge with art, film and new media.

In the first of these conversations, Dr. Angela Zito, associate professor of anthropology and religious studies and co-director of the Center for Religion and Media at New York will present a screening of her acclaimed film Writing in Water 水书A film on the social life of calligraphy 法的集体生活and explore the themes of public space and urban ritual. 

The series is hosted Dr. Anna Greenspan and Dr. Francesca Tarocco of NYU Shanghai, who are founders of the Shanghai Studies Society research initiative. 

About the Speaker 

Angela Zito

 Angela Zito is a professor of anthropology at New York University, where she has directed the Religious Studies Program for the past nine years. From 1979-1982, as the Cultural Revolution was ending, she spent three years at Beijing University doing historical research on the social and political importance of rituals performed by the emperor, receiving a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1989.  She co-founded and co-directs the Center for Religion and Media at NYU. She co-curates the Reel China Documentary Biennial with Zhang Zhen and is an affiliate faculty of Cinema Studies at NYU. Visit for her papers and projects.  Writing in Water is her first documentary film.

About the Film

What does it mean to take up calligraphy in a fast-moving world where people often no longer recall the stroke order of unusual words, but can look them up on cellphones?  How does it feel being alone, together, spending long hours training your body to write while slowly mulling over your life with others?  Writing in Water  follows two generations of calligraphy teachers,  Wang Tongxing (王童性) and Liu Lanbo (刘兰波) through the eyes of an American who learned to write with them, in Tuanjiehu Park, Beijing, where they practice writing on the plaza everyday. We encounter directly the funny, philosophically inclined teachers and the community of students, people who have been retired, left behind by China’s get-rich quick reforms. We see them together in the park and alone at home.  With their students they connect past to present, master to pupil, friend to friend, making a community, making Chinese characters that slowly materialize, and that last long after the water has evanesced into air.