Sylvia Martin

Dr Sylvia J Martin

Assistant Professor

9.15, 9/F., The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus


I received my PhD in Anthropology at University of California, Irvine. My monograph, Haunted: An Ethnography of the Hollywood and Hong Kong Media Industries (2017, Oxford University Press) draws from extensive, multi-sited fieldwork conducted in Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Using the concept of media assemblage, the book examines how distinct media cultures converge through global joint ventures. It argues that despite differences between the two commercial sites, media professionals in Los Angeles and Hong Kong share common concerns about the precarious conditions of the emotionally and physically high-stakes work of visual storytelling. Other publications from this body of research have appeared in Visual Anthropology Review and Critical Studies of Media Communication and are forthcoming with Duke University Press. Parts of this work have been awarded by the International Communication Association and The Academy of Hong Kong Studies, and featured on the cover of Anthropology News (American Anthropological Association).

Recent research examines the US military-media-industrial complex. It looks at how the narrative skills of screenwriters and the simulation technologies of digital entertainment are sought by the US state to innovate the military and its capacity to imagine futures. Funded by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, Early Career Scheme, part of this research has appeared in Media, Culture & Society with more in progress.

Courses taught


University of California, Irvine

Joint MA Anthropology and Women’s Studies
Brandeis University (Boston, USA)

BA Religious Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

Research interests



Creativity and imagination

Applied entertainment and storytelling

Digital technologies





Current research

Operationalizing Hollywood: Storytelling in the Service of the State (Principal Investigator). Hong Kong Research Grants Council, Early Career Scheme, 2018-2021.

Film Industries, Cities, and Soft Power (Principal Investigator). HKU Seed Fund, 2016-2019.

Honours and recognitions

Academy of Hong Kong Studies, Communications Sector. Outstanding Paper Prize, “The Death Narratives of Revitalization: Colonial Governance, China, and the Reconfiguration of the Hong Kong Film Industry.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 32(5):318-332.

Fulbright Scholarship: Postdoctoral Research in the Social Sciences for China Specialists, The University of Hong Kong.

International Communication Association, Mass Communication Section. Top Student Paper Award, “Of Ghosts and Gangsters: Capitalist Film Production in the Hong Kong Film Industry.” Visual Anthropology Review, v. 28, n. 1, p. 32-49.

Selected publications

Selected Publications


Martin, Sylvia J. 2017. Haunted: An Ethnography of the Hollywood and Hong Kong Media Industries. New York: Oxford University Press.

Journal articles:

Martin, Sylvia J. 2021. “Anthropology’s Prophecy for #MeToo: From Hollywood to Hong Kong.” Visual Anthropology Review, Volume 37(1): 120-141.

Chan, Cheris Shun-ching, Paul Joosse, Sylvia J. Martin and Xiaoli Tian. 2020. “Ethnography in Calamitous Times.” Special Issue “Ethnography in the Age of Covid-19″. Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa (Ethnography and Qualitative Research). Eds: Gary Alan Fine, Cheris Chan, and Chiara Bassetti. 2: 175-184.

Martin, Sylvia J. 2020. “Shared Visions: The Gift of ‘The Eye’.” Made in China Journal. Spectral Revolutions: Occult Economies in Asia Volume 5(2): 131-137.

Martin, Sylvia J. 2019.“Imagineering Empire: How Hollywood and the U.S. National Security State ‘Operationalize Narrative’.” Media, Culture & Society, 30 Dec.

Martin, Sylvia J. 2017. “Grounded Dreams? Hollywood and Hong Kong Face the Challenges of a Globalizing Movie Economy.” Anthropology News. March 9.
(Featured on the cover of print edition)

Martin, Sylvia J. 2015. “The Death Narratives of Revitalization: Colonial Governance, China, and the Reconfiguration of the Hong Kong Film Industry.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, v. 32, p. 318-332.
(Awarded Outstanding Paper Prize, Academy of Hong Kong Studies,        Communications Sector.)

Martin, Sylvia J. 2015. “Michael Jackson’s Gesamtkunstwerk: Artistic Interrelation, Immersion, and Interactivity From the Studio to the Stage.” Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, v. 11, 5.

Martin, Sylvia J. 2012. “Of Ghosts and Gangsters: Capitalist Cultural Production and the Hong Kong Film Industry.” Visual Anthropology Review, v. 28, n. 1, p. 32-49.
(Awarded Top Student Paper Award, International Communication Association, Mass Communication Section.)

Maurer, Bill and Sylvia J. Martin. 2012. “Accidents of equity and the aesthetics of Chinese offshore incorporation.” American Ethnologist, v. 39, n. 3, p. 527-544.

Martin, Sylvia J. 2012. “The Roots and Routes of Michael Jackson’s Global Identity. Society. 49(3): 284-290.

Book chapters:

Martin, Sylvia J. Forthcoming. “Stealing Shots: The Ethics and Edgework of Industrial Filmmaking.” In Anthropology, Film Industries, Modularity. Ramyar Rossoukh and Steve Caton, eds. Durham: Duke University Press.

Martin, Sylvia J. 2013. “Transformations and Tactics: The Production Culture of the Hong Kong Film Industry.” In Volume 2, “Media Production” of The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies. Vicki Mayer, ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

Martin, Sylvia J. 2012. “Stunt Workers and Spectacle: Ethnography of Physical Risk in Hollywood and Hong Kong.” In Film and Risk. Mette Hjort, ed. Wayne State University Press. Pp. 97-114.

See all publications in HKU Scholars Hub →