Decentering Chineseness: Towards Affective Transsensorial Cinemas

Author: 

Jiaying Sim

PhD defended at: 

University of Glasgow

Summary: 

What can cinema as an industry and medium teach us about the roles and parameters that define a “body” within a contemporary and globalised climate of interwoven flows of exchanges and practices? How does cinema make visible and tangible otherwise invisible transsensorial and affective modes of interactions that a body actively engages with other bodies, to create meanings beyond the limitations and capacities of a single body’s subjectivity and materiality? I address these areas of inquiry by examining four case studies of film examples produced from Singapore, Taiwan, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and America that feature ethnic “Chinese” bodies on screen.

This thesis sets out to illustrate how meaning is easily imposed on bodies—whether tied to the ethnic, visual, or tangible—rendering them passive where they are mere products of social construction with no individual agency or autonomy. However, contemporary practices of filmmaking and new ways of thinking about film experiences reveal that the body is in fact an active-affective producer of meanings. As such, the body can no longer be approached as a passive central locus where its meaning is defined solely by transnational, transcultural, or other grand narratives.

This thesis posits a “transsensorial” object-oriented, and new-materialist approach within the field of transnational Chinese cinemas studies that regards bodies on-screen beyond audiovisual signs to consider the materiality and immateriality of their production and productivity. Bodies are reframed as “body-without-organs” to consider the affective processes that produce them within specific ecologies—and their productive affective potentials to interrelate and encounter other bodies not-yet-formed. Through which, this thesis makes a case for cinema’s potential to produce thinking active-bodies and how bodies make sense of the worlds they are part of beyond subjective notions of lived experiences whether construed through different various inflections of social constructed identities based on trans-national, or trans-cultural discourses.

Defended: 

2018