Asian Canadian Minor Transnationalism: A Method of Comparison

In: Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas
Victoria Nolte Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada,

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This article provides a comparative analysis of Howie Tsui’s Celestials of Saltwater City (2011) and Ali Kazimi’s Fair Play (2014), two art installations that centre the histories of different Asian Canadian communities (Chinese Canadian and South Asian Canadian, respectively), but are underscored by paralleled experiences of racism, exclusion, and indenture. I bring these works together to propose a rethinking of Asian Canadian art history through Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih’s concept of minor transnationalism, a framework which helps map historical formations of “Asian Canadian” that rupture dominant cultural discourse. By comparing the ways in which Asian Canadian artists tell their own stories, drawing attention to narrative and aesthetic resonances not always immediately apparent, minor transnationalism brings into critical focus the subjective connections and experiences of diaspora that are already present but have been obscured through processes of historical erasure and settler colonial nation-building.

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