Life on the Move: Women's Migration and Re/making Home in Contemporary Chinese and Sinophone Literature and Film
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My dissertation examines the transformation of family and the reinvention of home from migrant women’s perspectives as represented in contemporary Chinese and Sinophone literature and film. In the era of globalization, people are increasingly mobile both within and across borders, resulting in the reshaping of family structure and re-conceptualization of home. In this dissertation I contend that migration is closely related to family dynamics and that migration also facilitates women’s agency in transforming family structure, navigating cultural differences, and negotiating with local societies and nation-states. The Chinese concept of jia 家 can be translated into English as family, home or house, and “homeness” in the context of Chinese migration is particularly associated with a geographical origin, a dwelling, a settlement, or familial intimacy. In this regard, I argue that migration is a process which reflects tradition, modernity and transnationalism, yet it can move beyond the metanarrative of homeland and nationalism that is often promoted by patriarchal cultural producers. I treat home as a locally defined notion to offer an alternate understanding of women migrants’ localization rather than focusing on the myth of return to the homeland. Women’s transgression of the boundaries of the household and their movement to other geographical locales transform their gendered role within the family, inciting their agency in opposing patriarchy and nationalism and creating space within which to negotiate the challenges of gender inequity, cultural difference, and marginalization. In contrast with the male-centered grand narrative featuring nostalgia for the homeland, I find that tales of women migrants show their protagonists eagerly adapting to their host countries and embracing local experiences. Hence, my dissertation focuses on the literary and cinematic representation of women migrants in contemporary Chinese and Sinophone literary works, documentaries and fictional films and explores four types of movement: immigration to North America, multiple transnational movements, cross-Strait migration from Taiwan to China, and new marriage-based immigration in Taiwan. Analysis of these works will improve understanding of the transnational flow of populations, the contested notion of home in migration, as well as the ways in which place-based literary and cultural productions are influenced by real-world migration.