Visualizing Our Voices: Self-made Audiovisual Media by Women from Social, Economic and Cultural Margins in the Era of Global Migration


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

View graph of relations


  • Vivian LIN

Related Research Unit(s)


Awarding Institution
Award date19 Feb 2016


My research explores how using participatory arts-based methods can encourage the empowerment of marginalized communities of women – sex workers, marriage migrants, and workers in the emotional labor or informal labor sectors. Although the term empowerment is often criticized for its uncritical celebratory nature and used as a buzzword that dismisses third world feminism, I explore women's empowerment in my work as, in the words of Batliwala, “both a process and the result of that process” (Batliwala, 1994: 130). The process takes place in working with women in target areas to gain the tools and resources to take control of their voices, self-representation, and stories. The result of this process is a “counter-cinema” (Johnston, 1973) that holds the power to challenge negative portrayals of marginalized women in the mainstream media, particular those that contribute to social stigmatization with harmful consequences to the women, through the expressive potential of alternative voices.
This dissertation looks at creative media empowerment by reporting on and analyzing several key case studies based on my work creating media with migrant sex workers in Amsterdam and Hong Kong, marriage migrants in Taiwan, lower-caste teenaged girls from Delhi, and women in the informal labor sector of Indonesia. Work in each of these locales was conducted based on a curriculum developed in a 2004 project, Fortunes for Cookies, in which I worked with teenage girls from New York City's Chinatowns to create media to counteract and challenge negative portrayals of Asian women in Hollywood. The curriculum has been updated to cater to the specific needs of each community and also in consideration of the increased accessibility of technology as well as media distribution platforms, such as social and participatory media. I bring together methods from the fields of documentary film, cine-feminism, and participatory action research to analyze the various ways in which media created at project sites offer alternative perspectives to the lives and labor of marginalized women. These are voices that are usually unheard, which speak to a diverse collective experience of today's transnational economies and cultures.