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  • 2022LeePhd

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Constructing Fairytales: Transcultural Migrations and Chinese Identities

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Melissa Lee
Publication date30/08/2022
Number of pages278
Awarding Institution
Award date16/08/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis investigates contemporary visual and literary Chinese narratives by focusing on the creative representations of migrants, immigrants, travellers, and their transcultural experiences. More specifically, I use my curatorial initiative Fairytale Project (2011), as an inspiration point to examine representations of diverse migrational axes in China. Given the hybridisation of arts and literary material in my own curatorial practice, this project is multi-disciplinary and encompasses visual, written, and transmedial forms.

My distinctive contribution to the aforementioned fields of study is the assemblage of minoritarian experiences, focusing on both the creative practitioner (artist and author) and their imagined subjects in the act of transgressive storytelling and performance. This thesis uniquely considers the minoritarian storytelling model in examining various media that frames imagined Chinese transnational subjects. It foregrounds the peripheral subject’s ability to metaphorically subvert dominant structures, history, and space through storytelling. I examine the archetypes ‘expatriate,’ ‘immigrant,’ ‘migrant,’ and ‘spy,’ with each type compelled to perform assimilation in response to themes of hospitality and arrested belonging in literary and visual narratives. In my consideration of these archetypes, I explore different ways in which imagined Chinese subjects are represented as immigrants in North America (Chapter Two), and as rural migrants in metropolitan contexts (Chapters Three and Four). These analyses are bookended by Chinese expatriate artist Ai Weiwei (Chapter One) and my curatorial initiative Fairytale Project (Chapter Five), informing my interpretations of transnational performativity in the thesis.

Using minoritarian storytelling as an overarching paradigm, I consider the relationship between participants, artists, authors, archives, and fairytales, in combined acts of performance and protest, exploring contemporary Chinese cultural identities in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

Bibliographic note

Melissa Karmen Lee 李林嘉敏 is a visual arts and literature scholar, curator, archivist and storyteller with research interests in public art and social engagement.