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Moving, Sensing Intersectionality: A Case Study of Miss China Europe

Yiu Fai Chow
Signs
Vol. 36, No. 2 (Winter 2011), pp. 411-436
DOI: 10.1086/656023
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/656023
Page Count: 26
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Moving, Sensing Intersectionality: A Case Study of Miss China Europe
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Abstract

Abstract Every year, Miss China Europe, a transnational beauty pageant organized for the Chinese diaspora, is held in the Netherlands. The hypervisuality of Chinese diasporic women at the event stands in painful contrast to their everyday invisibility, whether in the Netherlands, China, or elsewhere in the world. Informed by intersectional and transnational feminist scholarship, this empirical study zooms in on one group of women, ethnic Chinese born and/or growing up in the Netherlands, to identify and recuperate their neglected lived experience in a particular historical‐cultural context. It takes their own voices as central, hopefully to contribute to their visibility. It aims to provide an understanding of diasporic Chinese women as living in the dynamics not only of their multiple subordinations but also of their subjective consciousness, experienced autonomy, and agency. Drawing insights from the subjective accounts of both contestants and audiences of Miss China Europe, I suggest that one way to foreground marginalized women’s agency is to understand their intersectionality in terms of movements and sensory experiences. On the one hand, while the contestants articulated a readiness to perform their modern and yet Chinese selves, they were making movements along two intersecting axes of inequality and power relations—Chineseness and Dutchness—precisely to negotiate their sense of inequality and power relations. On the other hand, among the audiences, two major topics—the blood issue (or whether Chineseness should be defined by ancestry) and the language problem (or whether Chineseness should be defined by the ability to speak Chinese)—were raised regularly, underscoring a complex viewing experience of seeing and hearing, of the tension between visual and audio identifications.

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