‘All clothes are handmade’: the migrant workers behind Australian fashion | The Guardian

For The Guardian, I wrote about the migrant workers behind the ‘made in Australia’ label and how their winning campaign for equal rights might be instructive for other gig economy workers today.

Stories of Vietnamese garment workers in Australia
An excerpt from Emma Do and Kim Lam’s graphic narrative, Working From Home, or may ở nhà.

I talked to Emma Do and Kim Lam, the writer and illustrator of Working From Home, a graphic narrative about Vietnamese outworkers in the garment industry, and Nguyet Nguyen and Beth McPherson, veteran manufacturing workers and organisers in the textile, clothing and footwear union.

Chinese indie’s dilemma | ABC TV

Is indie music in China growing up or selling out? My story for ABC TV on Wuhan’s punk history and what it means for underground scenes to land in the spotlight.

Ft Li Ke (Wild Records/Vox Livehouse), Krish Raghav (comic artist, Chaoyang Trap House), SMZB, Shii, Hualun, Re-TROS, Bohan Phoenix, Wutiaoren, and a flash of the cringe anti-Blackness of Higher Brothers because we have to talk about that.

Screenshot of video with Jinghua standing in a laneway papered with gig posters. The headline says 'Before Covid, Wuhan was best known as the birthplace of China's punk music scene.'

Underfoot: history from below | Overland

Jinghua: Part of what we wanted to do was to find the stories missing from the narrative, but I’m really resistant to the idea of heroes… I don’t want to topple one statue and put up another.

Liz: But it’s much harder to find out much about the lives of people who don’t get a statue… We had to go into our research without a predetermined idea of what the final story would be. And it’s this, I think, that’s more useful for those of us on the Left than mining the past for forebears, or new heroes: seeing its radical unfamiliarity.

Liz and I wrote a feature for Overland on Underfoot (our Footscray history multimedia project) and how everyone can make and write history. Read it here.

Chinatown podcast | Recess x Rising

I made a short podcast about Melbourne’s Chinatown for The Hearts of the People are Measured by the Size of the Land, an exhibition curated by Olivia Koh (Recess) for Rising.

Sadly the festival is paused while Melbourne goes into its fourth lockdown so I’m not sure whether you’ll be able to see the exhibition currently, even the outdoor projections, but you can listen to the podcast in the meantime. Hoping events just get rescheduled.

In this podcast, Jinghua Qian offers a broken, bite-sized history of Chinatown and its role as the epicentre of a fractured and evolving community.

Audio samples

Nikki Lam, ‘Anchor and a Loose Thread 錨,和懸絲’, two-channel video installation, 2019. Sound design: Supina Bytol and Conor O’Hanlon.

Jay-Dea Lopez, ‘Chinatown, Melbourne’, Sounds Like Noise, 8 October 2011.

Peter Luck, ‘Chinese Australians ambivalent about revolution | RetroFocus’, ABC, 1969. (Accessed via YouTube.)

Cantonese with Brittany, ‘Cantonese vs. Taishanese (ft. Inspirlang)’, YouTube, 30 January 2021.

Inspirlang, ‘Taishanese Tones and Pronunciations (a complete guide to learn how to speak 台山話/Toisan/Hoisanwa)’, YouTube, 30 January 2021.

Nahuatl Tlahtocan, ‘Episode 2: A Linguistic History of Nahuatl’, YouTube, 20 June 2020.

Jess Ho, ‘The End of Chinatown’, 7am, 4 May 2021.

Daniel Keane, ‘Protesters call for wage theft crackdown in Adelaide’s Chinatown following alleged assault’, ABC, 6 February 2021.

Further reading

Jinghua Qian, ‘Chinatown: Melbourne’, Culture Trip, 29 June 2020.

Jinghua Qian, ‘Yellow peril isn’t what it used to be’, Meanjin, Summer 2019/2020.

Liam Ward, ‘Radical Chinese labour in Australian history’, Marxist Left Review, No. 10 Winter 2015.

Jinghua Qian, ‘Things and their makers: from “European labour only” to “ethical consumerism”’, Right Now, 8 September 2015.

Full references available on request.

As Beautiful As Any Other | The Saturday Paper

I reviewed Kaya Wilson’s memoir, As Beautiful As Any Other for The Saturday Paper. Really appreciated having the space to think deeply about this book and the transition memoir as a growing genre.

‘Trans people are under immense pressure to present a coherent and palatable origin story that helps cis people make sense of us – even when we are not seeking medical treatment, we are treated by laypeople as if presenting to them for diagnosis. We are supposed to be intelligent, untroubled, sympathetic and reassuring.’

The Saturday Paper book review graphic showing the cover of Kaya Wilson's As Beautiful As Any Other

Antipodean China | InDaily & Writers SA

Plenty of ink and pixels have been spilled over the fraught relationship between Australia and China lately, so Nicholas Jose and Benjamin Madden’s anthology, Antipodean China: Reflections on Literary Exchange, would appear to be a timely intervention in a conversation that is rife with misreadings and illiteracy. Read my review in InDaily, part of Writers SA’s review series.

Cover of Antipodean China showing author names and an red papercut map-like image by John Young

Remembering Ahbu on IWWD

Me and Ahbu.

It’s International Working Women’s Day today, which means my grandmother would’ve turned 92 next week. She died in December. Her life (1929-2020) spanned nearly 100 years of immense upheaval in China and she survived it all with resilience, dignity and optimism. I wrote a thread remembering her – first on Twitter, and then republished in Chinarrative. Read below.

Continue reading “Remembering Ahbu on IWWD”

Eating with My Mouth Open | The Saturday Paper

I grew up thinking there were seven fundamental flavours: suān, tián, kǔ, là, xián, xiān, má. The first five translate easily – sour, sweet, bitter, hot, salty – but the other two don’t own a home on the English tongue. It was a shock to realise that something as material as flavour could be coloured and even erased by language. But eating has many dimensions beyond what happens in your mouth, as Sam van Zweden chronicles in this thoughtful debut, Eating with My Mouth Open.

Eating with My Mouth Open | The Saturday Paper

Ghost in the Mirror | Disobedient Daughters

I have an essay in this gorgeous publication that accompanies the Disobedient Daughters exhibition at Counihan Gallery. Edited by curator Sophia Cai and designed by Joy Li, you can order a copy through the publisher, Heart of Hearts Press.

If you’re in Melbourne, please also check out the exhibition which is on at Counihan Gallery, from 6 February to 21 March. Thank you especially to artist Meng-Yu Yan, whose work my piece riffs off.