How might ideas about performance complicate discourses of human traffic? Sean Metzger looks at the 2004 incident at England’s Morecambe Bay, where twenty-three Chinese migrant workers lost their lives. His analysis focuses on cultural productions that respond to the incident, including Nick Broomfield’s film Ghosts, Isaac Julien’s screen installation Ten Thousand Waves, and Wang Ping’s poetry cycle of the same name. These works attempt to account for the subjective dimensions of human traffic in an age of globalization. Metzger focalizes questions of memory and human traffic, specifically cases involving Fujianese immigrants that end in death. Rather than emphasizing the arrival of the migrants, he considers what the departed reveal in terms of networks of aesthetics, people, and capital in the wake of catastrophe. What kinds of post-mortem connections are facilitated in attempts to remember lives that previously did not matter in the media? How does the legal discourse of human traffic render visible or invisible the people it would ostensibly protect? How does one represent people who remain unseen until their corpses float into public view?
Sean Metzger is Associate Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the president of Performance Studies International. His first book, Chinese Looks: Fashion, Performance, Race, was published by Indiana University Press in 2014. Metzger has also co-edited four collections of essays: Embodying Asian/American Sexualities with Gina Masequesmay (Lexington, 2009); Futures of Chinese Cinema: Technologies and Temporalities in Chinese Screen Cultures with Olivia Khoo (Intellect, 2009); Race, Space, Place: The Making and Unmaking of Freedoms in the Atlantic World with Michaeline Crichlow (a special issue of Cultural Dynamics, 2009); Islands, Images, Imaginaries with Francisco J. Hernández Adrián and Michaeline Crichlow (a special issue of Third Text, 2014). With John Clum, he co-edited an anthology of dramatic texts entitled Awkward Stages: Plays about Growing Up Gay (Cambria, 2015). Metzger is currently a Framing the Global fellow at Indiana University and Indiana University Press, for which he is working on a second book, The Chinese Atlantic: Seascapes and the Theatricality of Globalization.
Reception to follow.