Feng-Mei Heberer, “Sentimental Activism as Queer-Feminist Documentary Practice, or How to Make Love in a Room Full of People"

Feng-Mei Heberer, Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University, will present her interdisciplinary and intersectional research exploring the possibilities for activist intervention through documentary media today – a time when liberal politics, or claims to rights and recognition, are increasingly appropriated into nationalist state projects and market expansion. To examine how filmmakers respond to the appropriation of liberal values, especially when they are committed to advancing social justice and prompting concrete change, Professor Heberer will discuss the recent documentary work of women’s and women-dominated migrant labor activism in East Asia. Specifically, she will look at Lesbian Factory, a documentary shot by the Taiwan Workers' Association on Filipina migrant workers struggle for better labor rights.

Professor Heberer shows how this work engages a particular politico-aesthetic strategy, or what she calls “sentimental activism,” to remain legible to majoritarian decision-makers while insisting on the need for structural transformation. Contrasting this documentary work with the recent wave of migrant labor-themed films in global arthouse cinema, Professor Heberer contends its radical gesture lies in drawing upon migrant women’s life-making practices – in particular, their forging of queer and cross-communal socialities – that offer us new models of the social.

Professor Heberer will bring in her own experience of the migrant labor rally in Taiwan of the films' makers. This presentation speaks to scholars from the fields of media studies, feminist and queer critique, critical Asian studies and transnational American studies as well as to those interested in the relation between aesthetics and politics more broadly.

Tuesday, March 6 at 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Schapiro Hall, 129

Event Type



Asian Studies, Global Studies, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Comparative Literature

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