School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    We have voices, too: literacy, alternative modernities, and Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong
    Retnaningdyah, Pratiwi ( 2015)
    Migrant domestic workers are arguably one of the most exploited and subordinated groups of women in the international division of labour under global capitalism. However, they are active in negotiating the prevailing power structures in the transnational labour market. My thesis examines the significance of literacy practices to the cultural and subjective experience of Indonesian Domestic Workers (IDWs) in Hong Kong. Using three sites of culture as case studies—the Forum Lingkar Pena Hong Kong (Pen Circle Forum, FLP-HK) writing community, IDWs’ blogging community, and the practice of suitcase libraries—I argue that IDWs actively exercise agency by engaging in literacy practices, which embody various forms of self-modernisation. Through extensive ethnography and textual analysis of IDWs’ writings, the study reveals that IDWs in the FLP-HK writing community define their own meaning of Islamic modernity by writing to maintain and develop self-reflexive and spiritual interiority. Meanwhile, IDW bloggers are engaged in digital literacy practices that consciously challenge the stereotypes of stupid and uneducated maids and create new images of smart and technologically literate women. Furthermore, their engagement in ICTs—a key element of modernity—for social and political activism enables their elaboration of and participation in an alternative public sphere. Finally, IDWs’ suitcase library practices aimed at fostering reading practices carry the literacy mission as another element of modernity. More importantly, suitcase libraries serve as literacy hubs in which the various forms of IDWs’ literacy practices converge, and thus facilitate IDWs’ participation in an alternative public sphere, in which IDWs create forums of literacy-related public discussions. The above three sites of culture and the elements of modernity they negotiate are the manifestations of IDWs’ definitions of their own meanings of modernity.
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    Evolving multilingualisms in poetry: third culture as a window on multilingual poetic praxis
    NIAZ, NADIA ( 2011)
    In this thesis, I compare the understanding and construction of multilingualism across linguistics, cultural studies and literature in an effort to interrogate the popular notion that multilingual individuals – and creative writers in particular – are conflicted and fragmented as a result of their multilingualism. I locate the source of that assumption in the monolingual bias that arose when Western European thinkers adopted the idea that nations should be built around and defined by language. I then trace its development and influence on attitudes towards multilingualism and multilingual expression across disciplines to the present day. In particular, I examine the work of contemporaneous multilingual writers and assess how their work is both shaped by and resists these developing popular and academic conceptions of multilingualism. I identify three distinct types of multilingual writers in the process, who I refer to as traditional multilingual poets, cross culture polyglot poets and third culture polyglot poets. The first write in only one language at a time and do not mix codes, the second combine two languages usually connected through a history of colonialism, switching between them in the body of a single poem, and the third weave three or more languages that may or may not have any colonial history into poetry that is meant to be performed rather than read. I argue that polyglot poetry, particularly third culture poetry, as it is marked by a lack of conflict between the languages, represents a challenge to the dominant monolingual perception of multilingualism. Polyglot poetry reframes the idea of the fractured multilingual as a multifaceted one, with each identity and language representing not a shattered fragment but a new dimension. Creating polyglot poetry, then, is a political act in that it takes a dominant, sometimes colonizing, language, claims ownership of it, and then infuses it with the music of the Other. Rather than see their multifaceted identities as a hindrance to national belonging, I argue that polyglot poets represent a large number of people around the world – multilinguals all – whose identities exist harmoniously across multiple languages and national affiliations. This thesis puts forward a new framework for studying the movement of multilinguals between their languages, and specifically provides a new language for studying highly activated multilinguals.