Tracing the Last Mile: Mobility, Urbanization, and the Journey Home in China’s Spring Festival Golden Week
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Tracing the Last Mile studies the annual migratory journey home during China’s Lunar New Year Golden Week through the convergence of traditional Chinese art and auto-ethnographic research. This thesis highlights individual journeys within this migration to foreground differential human experience and cultural logics within the larger processes of urbanization and globalization in contemporary China. The research of Aihwa Ong, a Malaysian anthropology scholar investigating topics of transnationality and graduated sovereignty, are explored for insight into the mass migration of Golden Week and the greater phenomenon of rural to urban migration in China. This thesis posits a new term—graduated mobility that examines a focused aspect of graduated sovereignty and classifies a set of differential Golden Week journeys in order to investigate the tenuous ritual of returning home. The thesis utilizes the scroll’s abilities of illustrating journeys interwoven with social history to dissect a present-day Golden Week migration. Hand scroll paintings dating back to the Ming dynasty are studied on the three criteria of content, technique, and format. First, the sense of hierarchy used to portray content in the scrolls, is discussed in relation to how we can deploy democratic ways of depicting levels of class within China’s evolving social ladder. Secondly, the techniques of scale and perspectival distortion are analyzed to learn how space and time of the journey can be represented within a static drawing. Thirdly, the handheld format of rolled scrolls is challenged in order to rethink the performative potential of hand scroll paintings. The culmination of the research results in the making of a contemporary scroll drawing that depicts the journey of a transnational citizen—myself, as it intersects with travellers that represent varying degrees of graduated mobility. By revisiting this artform with current themes related to urbanization and the effects of globalization, Tracing the Last Mile positions the Golden Week journey as an entry point into the rippling, far-reaching effects of globalization.
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Cynthia Tang (2020). Tracing the Last Mile: Mobility, Urbanization, and the Journey Home in China’s Spring Festival Golden Week. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15644