WeChat therefore We Are: Chinese Social Media in Inner Melbourne
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Based on an ongoing study of a group of young women from China studying at universities in Melbourne, this seminar explores these students’ everyday experiences of living with cultural diversity, with a focus on how social media super-app WeChat shapes these experiences.
As a study destination, Australia is often sold by education agents in China as a secure choice, supposedly lacking in racism due to its long-established multicultural society. This seminar, however, presents a case study that centres on conflict.
From February through to April 2016, the community of Chinese students studying and living in Melbourne’s northern CBD and Carlton area was rocked by a prolonged spate of mobile phone thefts that popular WeChat news accounts persistently framed as ethnically targeted attacks on Chinese people by ‘African gangs’ ignored by Australian police. This seminar considers the research participants’ complex range of responses to these incidents, alongside the highly sensationalised and openly racialised reportage of them on WeChat news accounts (the students’ principal source of local news).
Fran Martin is Associate Professor and Reader in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her best-known research focuses on television, film, literature, internet culture and other forms of cultural production in the contemporary transnational Chinese cultural sphere.