Mobile Study, Mobile Selves: A 5-year study of female Chinese international students in Australia

A/Prof Fran Martin (Reader in Cultural Studies at The University of Melbourne) is working on a 5-year study of female Chinese international students in Australia, funded by the Australian Research Council as a Future Fellowship (FT 140100222, 2015 – 2020). Mobile Study Mobile Selves

 Australia is among the world’s top destinations for international students, with around 1 in 5 undergraduate students enrolling in Australian universities now being international. China is by far Australia’s largest source of international students, and over half of these students are women.

 A/Prof Martin is conducting in-depth ethnographic research with a core group of 50 female students from China who are studying or have studied in universities in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. From before their departure from China through to their postgraduate destinations, the study is building a picture of how these young women’s time in Australia affects both their gendered and their national-cultural identity.

 Who are these women when they arrive in Australia – and who do they become?

 The current wave of female educational migration from China reflects both young Chinese women’s mobile, transnational orientation and the increased individualization of their life projects: a sense of “living for oneself” as much as living for others. Motivated by much more than just the pursuit of degrees, these young women are engaged in projects of individualized self-making through their educational journeys. Full of hopes for personal autonomy and cosmopolitan experience, they are as yet unconstrained by the gendered demands of married life while also geographically removed from everyday obligations to natal family. The hypothesis that this project seeks to test through in-depth, longitudinal research is that young Chinese women’s experiences while studying abroad significantly affect their negotiation of the tensions between familial versus individual and national versus transnational identity: two sets of contradictions that centrally define the current generation of Chinese urban women’s sense of identity.

Read, watch and listen to more about A/Prof Martin’s research and publications here:


Author Bio

Fran Martin

Associate Professor Fran Martin is Reader in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Fran’s best known research focuses on television, film, literature and other forms of cultural production in contemporary transnational China (The People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong), with a specialization in transnational flows and representations and cultures of gender and sexuality. She is currently working on a 5-year ARC Future Fellowship project that uses longitudinal ethnography to research the social and subjective experiences of young women from China studying and living in Australia ( Fran received both her BA (hons) and her PhD from Melbourne University.

Fran is fluent in Mandarin, having begun learning the language in primary school in Australia. She later spent two years studying Chinese language and literature at Beijing Second Foreign Languages Institute and East China Normal University (1989 – 1991). She then spent a further two years researching in Taiwan, including at National Taiwan Central University’s Center for the Study of Sexualities. Prior to joining Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, Fran lectured in the Cinema Studies program at La Trobe University (2000-2003).

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