Fran Martin (University of Melbourne), Fran Martin’s best-known research focuses on television, film, literature, social media and other forms of cultural production in the contemporary transnational Chinese cultural sphere, with a specialization in representations and cultures of gender and queer sexuality. She is currently working on a 5-year Future Fellowship project funded by the Australian Research Council that uses longitudinal ethnography to research the social and subjective experiences of young women from China studying and living in Australia. Her recent publications include Telemodernities: Television and Transforming Lives in Asia (with Tania Lewis and Wanning Sun, Duke U.P., 2016), and Lifestyle Media in Asia: Consumption, Aspiration and Identity (co-edited with Tania Lewis, Routledge, 2016). Fran is an Associate Professor and Reader in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne.
“Im/mobile subjects: Chinese students’ experiences of work, place and movement in Melbourne”
International students represent a sizeable mobile population in the world today, and a significant revenue source for the higher education sector in countries including Australia where government support has progressively declined over recent decades. In Australia, by far the largest group of these transient educational migrants come from the People’s Republic of China, and over half of them are now women. Based on an in-progress ethnographic study, this paper considers these students’ experiences of working in Melbourne, exploring the implications of this example for how we think about mobility and its limits. Engaging critically with the concept of network capital, I discuss how my respondents’ work practices link them both into relatively fixed, localized, diasporic employment networks in Melbourne’s Chinese ethnic economy; and into relatively mobile, transnational, digitally mediated trading networks in the micro-entrepreneurial activity of daigou or parallel trading: on-selling local goods to customers in China via social media. I show how they use mobility tactics to grapple with various forms of “fixing” arising from gender, race, and location. Through this case study, I aim to challenge any a priori conceptual linking of mobility with advantage. Through my development of the concept of “feminine network capital,” I suggest that network capital can take “weak” and tactical, as well as “strong” and strategic forms.