Deleuze’s Cultural Encounters with the New Humanities

Published in Deleuze and the Humanities: East and West (2018), eds. Braidotti, Wong, Chan, Rowman & Littlefield

(Based on a conference paper presented in June 2014 in Hong Kong)


An encounter with Lufsig: Political affect meets the nomadic post-colonial subject

In December 2013, the accidental (mis)translation of the IKEA Lufsig doll (“路姆西”) coupled with its Red Riding Hood wolf character turned the stuffed toy into an Internet sensation and the symbol for Hong Kongʼs political activism overnight. Lufsig, like Donna Harawayʼs cyborg figure that stands for new feminist subjectivities, comes to figure as Hong Kongʼs very own ʻnomadic subjectʼ, reflective of the complex configuration of political subjecthood in the post-colonial/metropolitan/multi-lingual city. The IKEA doll is itself an assemblage of symbols, narratives, locations, and languages—from a Swedish company, with a French/European fairy tale narrative, and a (badly) translated Chinese name, etc.—and now also an agent of affects of humour and laughter as well as anger and frustration in Hong Kong.

Deleuze and Guattari define affect as ʻbecomingsʼ in A Thousand Plateaus, focusing on affectʼs capacities to produce emergent effects in entering assemblages. Building upon the Spinozaʼs ʻaffectusʼ, these emergent effects either augment or diminish the bodyʼs capacity to act. While affect operates on the physiological and psychological dimensions, it also extends beyond the personal subject through imbricating the social and somatic in forming a body politic (re John Protevi). The completely sold-out IKEA doll demonstrates such an assemblage of forces, as a (con)temporary subject/object that animates (affective) politics.

Inspired by Rosi Bradottiʼs work on ʻnomadic subjectʼ as a performative metaphor for unlikely encounters and creative becomings, I focus upon the affective force of Lufsig in its encounters with the political subjectivities of local citizens. I study the doll as a rhizomatic site of solidarity and resistance and through it, analyse the multi-layered and complex forms of post-colonial political subjecthood that may be observed in Hong Kong today.

Research MA Graduate Thesis (2014)

To dance is to move in time. This thesis examines the experience of dance as a durational experience and argues that the ontology of dance raises a methodological question of temporality in studying experience. Two major schools of empiricist thought are taken up here: phenomenology and process philosophy. Through studying the theorisations of dance by way of phenomenology and process philosophy, I explore how time is embedded within the methodologies themselves.

Part I focuses on a reading of Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s The Phenomenology of Dance and Brian Massumi’s Semblance and Event. The comparison reveals how the two books make use of a combination of phenomenology and process philosophy to address the ongoing ontology of dance. This emphasises the temporal dimension of experience, and the associated temporal dimension of the methodologies in analysing experience. Part II engages in a rereading of phenomenology and process philosophy in association with radical empiricism to effect an understanding of embedded time. I focus on how phenomenology and process philosophy encapsulate the emergence and duration of experience within their conceptualisations and the methodological tools which are proposed for analysis. The temporality of methodologies is thus studied through dance.

Passive Performances

Paper presented at Performance Studies international #20 in July 2014 in Shanghai


‘Passively’ Performing—Re-investigating the Transformative Potential of Performances

This paper investigates how performances may potentially transform its community of spectators, following theorisations on the subject by Erika Fischer-Lichte in The Transformative Power of Performance (2008) and Jill Dolan’s Utopia in Performance (2005). According to Fischer-Lichte, performance can transform the passive spectator into an actor as it collapses the divide between art and life. Dolan proposes that audiences form temporary communities as sites of public discourse, which could model new interactions with the public sphere after experiences of performances. I argue that these accounts on the ‘transformative’ potential overly detail on the positive affects and do not consider the extent of negative aspects nor the indeterminancy of a performance’s reach.

In performance art, instances where artists do not ‘speak’, ‘act’ or ‘perform’ may be identified.  An example is Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1964-5, 2003) where she allowed audience members to cut off pieces of her clothing while she sat on stage motionless.  While performers actively step into the frame of ‘performance’, they remain relatively ‘passive’ throughout and depend on audience members to become active participants in the event.  Through this genre of what I term ‘passive’ performances, I will re-examine the concept of ‘transformation’ of audience communities into actors, and discuss how the socio-political impact and implications of this for the larger public may be assessed and theorised.


MA Graduate Thesis (2011)

Graduate Thesis
(Department of Gender Studies, Universiteit Utrecht, supervised by Dr. Marta Zarzycka)

“(Re)capturing the ‘Absent’ Memory of the June 4th Incident: an analysis of Lou Ye’s Summer Palace (2006)”

The June 4th Incident at Tiananmen Square marked the end of the student revolution for liberty and democracy that took place in Beijing in 1989. This thesis discusses the film text Summer Palace (2006) directed by mainland Chinese director Lou Ye. By analysing the narrative structure, the use of excessive sex scenes and the film’s engagement with documentary footages, this thesis sets out to address the following questions: How does filmic representation of trauma allow memory and its associated traumatic effects to be vicariously passed onto the viewer? Based on the relationship between the embodied spectator and the screen image, how may the spectator experience June 4th affectively?

I detail on how absence/ silence is prominent in the limits of trauma narratives and demonstrate how this is reflected in the narrative of Summer Palace. The silence signals and calls for an alternative way of approaching the film through the affective realm, rather than through the narrative details. I argue that the excessive sex scenes, which are used to convey the unspeakable traumatic effects, and the film’s use of documentary footages place viewers in an uncomfortable viewing position, which affectively transmit feelings from the characters to the viewers and connect them to the real-life collective memory over the subject matter. I will also discuss how the absence/presence paradigm played out in the film’s transmission of cultural memory may be reflected in real-life politics in Hong Kong.