Mimi Nguyen

Star Personas and Fan Fictions: Bruce Lee, JJ Chinois, and the Queer Technologies of Celebrity

Date 10/18/04

Affiliation Professor of Women's Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor


What happens when a Chinese American lesbian performer borrows from the distinctive cinema and styling of international superstar Bruce Lee to create her own Asian (drag) sensation, aspiring celebrity JJ Chinois?

This talk examines the use of video and digital forms and technologies of public celebrity, in concert with queer forms and technologies of the self, for assembling a desirable commodity body in American and transnational popular culture.

JJ Chinois is the creation and alter-ego of New York City artist Lynne Chan. Nguyen will examine Chan's interpretation of Asian masculinities as individuated performance and as reproducible commodity. She will also consider the historical and cultural possibilities (and limitations) for stardom engendered by contemporary transnational circuits of culture, capital, and technology.

Nguyen explores technologies of the self and of the star to reflect upon the specific social histories and material conditions that create a desirable commodity body. Nguyen examines the technological implications of JJ Chinois' "star potential" by focusing on Chan's guerilla music video and "official" website, as well as the layers of his cinematic and stylistic borrowing from Bruce Lee's body of work (both his disciplined, physical body and his films). Nguyen looks at how Chan/Chinois reproduces and critiques the techniques through which these popular cultural forms amplify the illusion of interactivity, intimacy and identification between stars, fans, and wannabes.


Mimi Thi Nguyen is Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Rackham School of Graduate Studies and Assistant Professor in Women's Studies at the University of Michigan. She earned her PhD. in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, with a Designated Emphasis on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She is currently completing her first book, which examines the historical production and mobilization of refugeeness for varied political and cultural projects (such as commemoration, humanitarianism, consumption and multicultural nationalism) in particular within the transnational configuration "Vietnamese America." She continues to situate her work within transnational feminist cultural studies with her next project, which will focus on fashion, citizenship and transnationality. She is co-editor with Thuy Linh Tu of Alien Encounters: Pop Culture in Asian America (forthcoming) and author of multiple essays on Asian American, queer, and punk subcultures, digital technologies, and Vietnamese diasporic culture, published in academic collections, on-line publications and popular magazines.

-- As of 10/18/04

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