Multiculturalism through a Lens: Migrants' Voice in Taiwanese Documentaries

Zemanek, Adina Simona orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7960-8646 and Momesso, Lara orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4042-9384 (2023) Multiculturalism through a Lens: Migrants' Voice in Taiwanese Documentaries. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 24 (3). pp. 413-430. ISSN 1464-9373

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This study contributes to research into multiculturalism and Taiwan’s public discourse on marriage migrants, arguing for the everyday as a site for inquiry into cultural negotiations, hybridity and homemaking in multicultural societies. It analyzes two documentaries – My Imported Bride (2003) and Out/Marriage (2012) from the perspective of voice, defined as the filmmaker’s way of seeing the world. It explores migrants’ ownership of their narratives and inhabited spaces and assesses whether the documentaries grant a voice to migrants, speaking with rather than for them. These films show that migrants have already gained a formalized representational space in Taiwan’s public discourse. The narrative power remains with the directors, and their framing of migrants accommodates Taiwanese audiences’ expectations, but in different ways. The earlier documentary successfully showcases typical problems underlying brokered marriages and obstacles in adapting to a new living environment. The more recent film employs discursive categories established by official multiculturalism policies, NGO-led activism, and previous media representations, which echo existing migrant-related stereotypes. Nevertheless, this film, directed by a migrant, also uses visual and auditory strategies that open a window onto migrants’ intimate physical and social home spaces in Vietnam. Thus, it builds potential for alternative representations that can counteract the risk of othering migrants and solidifying ethnic and cultural boundaries, posed by representational categories coming from hegemonic sources.

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