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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Bodies in motion : the films of transmigrant queer Chinese women filmmakers in Canada Lin, Hui-Ling


This dissertation examines the representations of racialized, gendered, queer sexuality in selected films produced by four transmigrant queer “Chinese” women filmmakers in Vancouver, with a main focus on body images. Personal interviews with these filmmakers about their lives and films were collected and analyzed in-depth using feminist qualitative method informed by standpoint epistemology. The analyses are framed by discussions of what it means to be “Chinese” outside of China, in relation to what it means to be female and “queer.” Selected films were analyzed drawing on feminist film theory, postcolonial and poststructuralist theories, and transnational feminist theory. Judith Butler’s ideas on gender performance and performativity and José E. Muñoz’s concept of “disidentification,” and their application to theories of the body serve as a framework to examine the following research questions: How do these filmmakers re-present “Chineseness,” “queerness,” and “femininity” by deploying their own bodies or those of others? How do they evoke or challenge mainstream stereotypes, and what kinds of narratives and film techniques do they exploit in order to re-conceptualize the non-conforming and transmigrant queer female body? Chapter 2 provides a detailed, contextualized introduction to the filmmakers, based on the interviews, and information on the Canadian context. Chapter 3 explores how racialized, queered, and gendered bodies are presented, appropriated, or subverted in a selection of films. Chapter 4 examines three major strategies of disidentification in the films: the appropriation of dominant stereotypical images; the use of hybrid genres and technical effects; and the reinvention of language(s). The analysis of the films and interviews shows that these filmmakers produce alternative forms of embodied knowledge based on their lived experiences, showing that there is no essential queer “Chinese” women body. Their sense of “Chineseness” is highly contextualized and intersectional, which opens up the possibility that transnational “Chineseness,” like gender and sexuality, could be cited and re-cited in ways that disclose its vulnerability and instability. These filmmakers and their films contribute to new articulation of mobile queerness in the context of transmigrant “Chineseness,” and create a temporary and transnational “utopian performative,” a safe and hopeful space for queer women viewers.

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