Autonomy and the Other Woman: Queer Active Agency and Postcolonial Expectations

Jenny Barrett, ROSA FONG-COWN

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    In “Gendering of Chinoiserie in Deconstructing Zoe” (2018) Fong explores the means and implications of embodying a gendered and racialized identity in Deconstructing Zoe, her documentary film about transgender actor Zoe / Chowee Leow. In the documentary, Fong argues, Zoe’s self-aware performance as a Chinese Malay trans woman is evidence of a queer active agency. This chapter now aims to consider the ambiguous nature of Zoe’s performance in neo-liberal times, in terms of a pro-colonial discourse, as both subversive and conformist. Zoe’s identity, as performed and re-performed in the documentary’s autoethnographic narrative and narrational spaces, transgresses postcolonial values and embraces a queered, physical, colonial discourse. With reference to the subversive yet celebrated Chilean writer and performer, Pedro Lemebel, Zoe is seen as ‘unapologetic’ for her own constructed identity, which incorporates the femininised aspects of the East Asian that postcolonialism rejects. Zoe’s personal autonomy is regarded through the gendered perspective of Said’s Orientalism, as framed by Bell and Loretoni in their interrogation of ‘western’ constructions of the ‘Other Woman’ of the ‘East.’ Zoe’s agency is argued as having a deconstructing function towards essentialist, postcolonial expectations of Chinese Malay identity in Britain.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCreative Practice Research in the Age of Neoliberal Hopelessness
    EditorsAgnieska Piotrowska
    PublisherEdinburgh University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781474463560
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2020


    • Documentary
    • Ethnography
    • Transgender
    • Neoliberalism
    • Identity
    • Ethnicity
    • Postcolonial
    • Pro-colonial
    • Orientalism
    • Racial stereotypes


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