UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The aesthetics of reticence and visuality : reframing intimacy in Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms at Night and Trinh T. Minh-ha's Surname Viet Given Name Nam Fung, Stephanie


This thesis examines the relation between race and intimacy, particularly the ways in which intimacy is used in film and literature as an aesthetic strategy to resist heteropatriarchal and colonial constructions of racialized subjectivities, histories, and knowledge. Drawing from Lisa Lowe’s recent The Intimacies of Four Continents, I argue that Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night and Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Surname Viet Given Name Nam reframe intimacy by engaging with the residual and emergent to emphasize the lesser known forms of kinship and alliance between different colonized groups of people. In Chapter 1, I trace articulations of reticent intimacies in Cereus Blooms and contend that they generate an anticolonial mode of remembering that reimagines intergenerational relationships. Mootoo’s emphasis on historical gaps, fragments, and erasures to reconstruct narratives demonstrates a practice of reticent intimacy that challenges linear narratives and historical memory. In Chapter 2, I explore how Surname Viet depicts a transnational feminist intimacy through a narrative arc that reflects a transformation to visuality. The film makes visible palimpsest identities engendered through intimacies-in-motion as Vietnamese American women’s stories are inscribed with traces of the colonial past. This interdisciplinary project not only furthers understandings of the relation between the politics of intimacy and racialized subjectivities, but it also suggests aesthetic strategies of reading for alternative modernities that push beyond limits of inherited genealogies of liberal humanism to reveal possibilities of knowing what has been assumed to be erased, lost, and forgotten.

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