7-1 | Table of Con­tents | DOI 10.17742/IMAGE.NBW.7-1.8 | Bou­vier­ChoPDF

Abstract | In her doc­u­men­tary pho­tographs of Chi­nese restau­rants in small-town Alber­ta, Elyse Bou­vi­er recal­i­brates inti­ma­cy. Her pho­tographs wrench the inti­mate out of the sphere of the domes­tic and the pri­vate and insert it into the realm of the com­mu­nal and the pub­lic. They offer us a vision of the kind of intense rela­tion that can exist between strangers—stranger inti­ma­cy. More­over, the images assert a tem­po­ral­i­ty that is nec­es­sary for this recal­i­bra­tion. Inti­ma­cy does not exist out­side of time. These pho­tographs insist upon, and demand, an under­stand­ing of inti­ma­cy that is not only strange, but also deeply struc­tured by a com­plex temporality—a kind of uncan­ny dou­ble take or déjà vu. Bouvier’s pho­tographs demand that the view­er pause and dwell in the déjà vu that they produce.
Résumé | Dans son doc­u­men­taire pho­tographique sur les restau­rants chi­nois des petites villes rurales alber­taines, Elyse Bou­vi­er réé­val­ue l’intime. Ses images arrachent l’intime de la sphère domes­tique et privée et l’intègre à l’espace com­mu­nau­taire et publique. Ces images nous offrent une vision du genre de rela­tion intense qui peut exis­ter entre incon­nus- intim­ité étrange. De plus, les images affir­ment une tem­po­ral­ité néces­saire à cette réé­val­u­a­tion. L’intime n’existe pas en-dehors du temps. Ces images deman­dent et insis­tent sur une cer­taine com­préhen­sion de l’intime qui est non seule­ment étrange mais aus­si pro­fondé­ment con­stru­it par une tem­po­ral­ité com­plexe ; une sorte de temps d’arrêt trou­blant ou de déjà-vu. Les images de Bou­vi­er exi­gent que le spec­ta­teur s’arrête et s’attarde sur le sen­ti­ment de déjà-vu produit.

Elyse Bou­vi­er | Photographer
Lily Cho | York University

Temporalities of the Rural in Elyse Bouvier’s Chinese Restaurant Photographs

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Look at Elyse Bouvier’s pho­tographs of Chi­nese restau­rants and look again. Look at the pho­tographs of every gin­ger beef dish she ate while doc­u­ment­ing Chi­nese restau­rants in small towns across Alber­ta (you have a small sam­ple in “Plate #1, #2, #3, and #4”). When you look at them, you may not see the more than 4000 kilo­me­tres she drove, nor the nights she spent sleep­ing in her car, nor the days she spent star­ing down a high­way that nev­er seems to end. You may not see the way in which these pho­tographs con­nect a vast and dis­parate geog­ra­phy. But you will look again, not least because they are ter­ri­bly famil­iar and, min­gled with that famil­iar­i­ty, also strange. Bouvier’s pho­tographs recal­i­brate inti­ma­cy. They wrench the inti­mate out of the sphere of the domes­tic and the pri­vate and insert it into the realm of the com­mu­nal and the pub­lic. They offer us a vision of what Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips explore as the inti­ma­cy between strangers—stranger inti­ma­cy.[1] More­over, they assert a tem­po­ral­i­ty that is nec­es­sary for this recal­i­bra­tion. Inti­ma­cy does not exist out­side of time. These pho­tographs insist upon, and demand, an under­stand­ing of inti­ma­cy that is not only strange, but also deeply struc­tured by a com­plex temporality—a kind of uncan­ny dou­ble take or déjà vu. Bouvier’s pho­tographs demand that the view­er pause and dwell in the déjà vu that they produce.

This expe­ri­ence of the déjà vu cap­tures some­thing of the tem­po­ral­i­ty of stranger inti­ma­cy. To expe­ri­ence it is to rec­og­nize some­thing, to know that one has seen this thing before. But it is also to doubt that knowl­edge. It is to won­der about the accu­ra­cy of this expe­ri­ence of see­ing again. And it is an expe­ri­ence of dis­qui­et and dis­creet ter­ror. This ter­ror is not that of bombs and threats from unknown assailants. It is, as Homi Bhab­ha rec­og­nizes, the ter­ror of the uncan­ny, or unheim­lich, which, as he notes, is also that of the unhomely:

The unhome­ly moment creeps up on you stealth­ily as your own shad­ow and sud­den­ly you find your­self with Hen­ry James’s Isabel Archer, in The Por­trait of a Lady, tak­ing in the mea­sure of your dwelling in a state of “incred­u­lous ter­ror”… The recess­es of the domes­tic space become sites for history’s most intri­cate inva­sions. In that dis­place­ment, the bor­ders between home and the world become con­fused; and, uncan­ni­ly, the pri­vate and the pub­lic become part of each oth­er, forc­ing upon us a vision that is as divid­ed as it is dis­ori­ent­ing. (9)

Bhab­ha iden­ti­fies the expe­ri­ence of the unhome­ly as hav­ing “a res­o­nance that can be heard dis­tinct­ly, if errat­i­cal­ly, in fic­tions that nego­ti­ate the pow­ers of cul­tur­al dif­fer­ence in a range of tran­shis­tor­i­cal sites” (9). While Bhab­ha writes about lit­er­a­ture, his argu­ment for attend­ing to the dis­qui­et­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties of the ter­ri­bly famil­iar offers an impor­tant route into under­stand­ing the stranger inti­ma­cy of Bouvier’s photographs.

These pho­tographs chart the dis­qui­et of the famil­iar by break­ing down the divide between pri­vate and pub­lic expe­ri­ence. Specif­i­cal­ly, the images break down the sup­pos­ed­ly pri­vate trau­ma of dis­place­ment with the pub­lic one of liv­ing in dias­po­ra. Bou­vi­er doc­u­ments the dis­place­ment of com­mu­ni­ties in dias­po­ra: Chi­nese and Viet­namese fam­i­lies work­ing and liv­ing in places that are far removed from the places that were, in anoth­er time, home. Yet there are oth­er dis­place­ments at work here too. There are the men who come in for cof­fee in search of a sense of com­mu­ni­ty that can­not be found in the space of the pri­vate home (“Morn­ing in St. Paul” and “Break­fast with Louis”). There are the chil­dren play­ing and doing home­work at the back of the restau­rant (“Jeff’s Daugh­ters”). There is the per­sis­tence of the mena­ki-neko, the Japan­ese cat with its paw raised in a per­pet­u­al ges­ture towards the hope for good luck (“Lucky Dragon”).

Take, for exam­ple, the intri­cate inva­sions of his­to­ry of just the mena­ki-neko. Con­sid­er the strange famil­iar­i­ty of a Japan­ese cat in a Chi­nese restau­rant oper­at­ed by Viet­namese peo­ple in a town large­ly devoid of Japan­ese, Chi­nese, or Viet­namese peo­ple. Chi­nese immi­grants of my father’s gen­er­a­tion expe­ri­enced the ter­ror of the Japan­ese assault on Chi­na in the 1930s. Chi­na invades Viet­nam in 1979. In Cana­da, Chi­nese immi­grants who were ear­ly restau­rant own­ers and work­ers would have been sub­ject­ed to a head tax as well as out­right exclu­sion from 1923-1947. These intri­cate his­to­ries of vio­lence res­onate in the innocu­ous wave of one pur­port­ed­ly lucky and luck-bear­ing cat.

Yet this sym­bol­ic object is not mere­ly one cat, but a rep­e­ti­tion of cats in every restau­rant. This rep­e­ti­tion func­tions, in Bhabha’s terms, as the ter­ror of the déjà vu, of the unhome­ly moment, how it uncov­ers the pub­lic secrets that secure the order­ing of civ­il soci­ety. Thus, for exam­ple, fem­i­nism makes vis­i­ble an unhome­ly moment in civ­il soci­ety by spec­i­fy­ing its gen­dered and patri­ar­chal nature and dis­turb­ing easy dis­tinc­tions between pri­vate and pub­lic life (Bhab­ha 11). In so doing, the “unhome­ly moment relates the trau­mat­ic ambiva­lences of a per­son­al, psy­chic his­to­ry to the wider dis­junc­tions of polit­i­cal exis­tence” (Bhab­ha 11). The ter­ror of the déjà vu is not quite that of being haunt­ed by a his­to­ry one can­not right­ly place, but rather that of being giv­en a flash of insight into a secret, inti­mate knowl­edge that has always been open but open in such a way that it seems to be dis­creet, sep­a­rat­ed from oth­er knowl­edges and oth­er spheres of life.

Bouvier’s pho­tographs insist on uncov­er­ing these knowl­edges and artic­u­lat­ing the con­nec­tions between peo­ple, com­mu­ni­ties, and his­to­ries of dis­place­ment. If the his­to­ry of Chi­ne­se­ness in Cana­da has been marked by sys­temic, leg­is­lat­ed racism (for exam­ple, the Chi­nese Immi­gra­tion Act 1885, 1905, 1923) and forms of unof­fi­cial, sub­tle, and unsub­tle racism, then the place of the Chi­nese restau­rant in small-town Cana­da attests to the ways in which this his­to­ry is hid­den away, sup­pressed, and over­rid­den by the pow­er of what it means to live in dis­junc­tion. That is, these pho­tographs show how these his­to­ries of divi­sion and dis­crim­i­na­tion exist, with a kind of uncom­pli­cat­ed ease, along­side the unfold­ing of dai­ly lives that are con­cerned with con­nec­tion and com­fort. In “Morn­ing in St. Paul,” three men expe­ri­ence the con­vivi­al­i­ty of a Chi­nese restaurant’s hos­pi­tal­i­ty. Away from home, they are also at home.

Morn­ing in St. Paul” reveals much about the stranger inti­ma­cy of small-town Chi­nese restau­rants. The men in this pho­to­graph are reg­u­lars. They know this place. Here, for them, there is ease. There is the deep com­fort and famil­iar­i­ty of scram­bled eggs and toast and cof­fee. There is a moment of leisure, of lean­ing back with an elbow on the table and anoth­er on the back of the chair. Yet there is also a dis­tur­bance here. Peer­ing out over a cor­ner of the table, just slight­ly right of the cen­ter of our pho­to­graph, behind the nap­kin dis­penser, there is a dis­qui­et­ing­ly comedic fig­ure. He wears a red cap and smile so wide that it drags the eye­brows upward. He is jol­ly and fat with a dou­ble chin. If he were real, that chin would move with every guf­faw. He might be Chi­nese but it is hard to tell. Even this vague­ness is part of the dis­tur­bance. He is decid­ed­ly for­eign. He is not like these men at the table. His laugh­ter is dec­o­ra­tive. His smile is frozen in time and the atem­po­ral­i­ty of his joy haunts the real plea­sures at this table. He enacts an inti­mate inva­sion. He is both a fix­ture and affixed to the his­to­ries of dis­place­ment that make that oth­er ease possible.

In order for this morn­ing in St. Paul to unfold, in order for this pub­lic com­fort and this ease to exist, a series of pri­vate trau­mas of dis­place­ment and iso­la­tion must also be present. Some­one left home to make this oth­er home. Some­one gave up fam­i­ly in order to carve out this oth­er space of famil­iar­i­ty. My point is not just that Asian immigration—and all of the sad­ness­es atten­dant upon the process of immi­gra­tion, no mat­ter how desirable—makes pos­si­ble the pub­lic sphere of the small-town Chi­nese restau­rant. Rather, I want to stress the intri­ca­cy of these restau­rants as tran­shis­tor­i­cal sites that con­tain mul­ti­ple reg­is­ters of loss and dis­place­ment. The dis­so­lu­tion of the bound­aries between pri­vate pain and pub­lic joy offers a way into the dis­crete ter­ror of the déjà vu, of look­ing again to see the haunt­ing of his­to­ries that will not stay put, that refuse to be out­side of the frame.

Bou­vi­er makes vis­i­ble the uneasy dis­tinc­tions between pri­vate and pub­lic life in com­mu­ni­ties defined both by the inti­ma­cy of their demo­graph­ic scale (pop­u­la­tion of St. Paul, Alber­ta, 5400; Wain­wright, Alber­ta, 5925; Bon­nyville, Alber­ta, 6216; Rocky Moun­tain House, Alber­ta, 6933; Con­sort, Alber­ta, 689; Stave­ly, Alber­ta, 505; Turn­er Val­ley, Alber­ta, 2167; Trochu, Alber­ta, 1172) and by the vast­ness of their geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions. “To think of the West in Cana­da is to think of great dis­tances and the machines for tra­vers­ing them,” writes Craig Camp­bell of the “rur­al scene” in Kyler Zeleny’s pho­tographs of com­mu­ni­ties of few­er than 1000 inhab­i­tants in the Cana­di­an West. The dis­tances that Camp­bell evokes, dis­tances that are very real, do not appear in the images col­lect­ed in Zeleny’s Out West. Almost with­out excep­tion, Zeleny’s pho­tographs are tight­ly cropped and focused on spe­cif­ic objects—road signs, a lone build­ing, and, more than any­thing, the car­cass­es of aban­doned cars.

In Out West and in Bouvier’s pho­tographs, there is a ten­sion between empti­ness and inhab­i­ta­tion. Take, for exam­ple, Bouvier’s “Ng’s Café” and “The Diana.” There are tables, chairs, and nap­kin dis­pensers. No one is sit­ting in the chairs; no one is at the tables. Fur­ther empha­siz­ing empti­ness through signs of pres­ence, in “Ng’s Café” the table is set for one; there is an emp­ty water glass and the for­tune cook­ie remains unwrapped. “Ng’s Café” and “The Diana” show the pos­si­bil­i­ty of habi­ta­tion while main­tain­ing the empti­ness of these spaces—a ten­sion that plays out with par­tic­u­lar acu­ity in the sur­faces of both images. There is a shiny qual­i­ty to every­thing: the green wall in “The Diana,” the vinyl of the chairs, the table­tops, the met­al of the nap­kin dis­pensers. These spaces are not sim­ply emp­ty; they gleam with empti­ness. No patron could sit at those tables with­out mar­ring this gleam. This empti­ness is not that of dust and tum­ble­weeds, but rather an aggres­sive­ly glossy empti­ness. It is not pas­sive, but comes out of hard work. There is some­thing untouch­able here. Bouvier’s images cap­ture a lone­li­ness that is not a prod­uct of neglect and aban­don­ment. It is a lone­li­ness that func­tions at the nexus of the ten­sion between empti­ness and inhab­i­ta­tion. It is the lone­li­ness of the unoc­cu­pied table.

There are, of course, peo­ple behind the counter and past the swing­ing doors. One of the great achieve­ments of this series lies in Bouvier’s abil­i­ty to cap­ture some­thing of these lives. “Cam in Wain­wright Steak­house,” “Clara in Con­sort,” “Lori in the Diana,” “Jeff’s Daugh­ters,” “Sam and Amy,” and “Sam’s Turkey Sand­wich” all attest to the rela­tion­ships Bou­vi­er builds with her sub­jects and with these spaces. These rela­tion­ships speak to the pow­er of stranger inti­ma­cy. This inti­ma­cy exceeds the sphere of the domes­tic, of the fam­i­ly, of pri­va­cy. It oper­ates with a dif­fer­ent kind of tem­po­ral­i­ty than con­ven­tion­al inti­ma­cy. A log­ic of dis­clo­sure gov­erns con­ven­tion­al inti­ma­cy. Know­ing some­one, know­ing their his­to­ries and their secrets, is the fun­da­men­tal basis of inti­ma­cy as we have typ­i­cal­ly known it. How­ev­er, as Bersani and Phillips pro­pose, it does not have to be that way. Per­haps, they sug­gest, we are mis­tak­en in think­ing that such knowl­edge can lead to greater close­ness. Per­haps we do not need to depend so much on the past in order to find our way to inti­ma­cy. As Lisa Lowe observes, “inti­ma­cy as inte­ri­or­i­ty is elab­o­rat­ed in the philo­soph­i­cal tra­di­tion in which the lib­er­al sub­ject observes, exam­ines, and comes to pos­sess knowl­edge of the self and oth­ers” (21). Instead of this desire for exam­i­na­tion and pos­ses­sion, Bersani and Phillips want to find “a new sto­ry of inti­ma­cy that prefers the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the future to the deter­mi­na­tions of the past” (viii). Bouvier’s pho­tographs of the peo­ple behind the counter and past the swing­ing doors offer a beau­ti­ful artic­u­la­tion of inti­ma­cy that opens the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the future. The cam­era does not know them. They do not know the cam­era. But there is still knowl­edge here. Thus, when I note that these images attest to the pow­er of Bouvier’s rela­tion­ship to her sub­jects, I do not mean that she nec­es­sar­i­ly spent a lot of time with them. Rather, I mean that Bouvier’s work opens up a sto­ry of inti­ma­cy that is not gov­erned by the knowl­edge and pos­ses­sion of the his­to­ries of her subjects.

A rela­tion­ship to his­to­ry and a com­mit­ment to futures embody the par­tic­u­lar inti­ma­cy of these restau­rants. These are the places where almost every­one is a reg­u­lar who knows Cam in Wain­wright, Clara in Con­sort, Lori in the Diana, Jeff’s daugh­ters, and Sam and Amy. They do not need to know their life sto­ries; indeed, such sto­ries are typ­i­cal­ly not on offer. My par­ents had lit­tle inter­est in revis­it­ing the trau­mas of the past that lead them to the restau­rants where they worked. The point is to start a life and to make out of that life some­thing oth­er than what it was. It is not an era­sure of the past nor denial. It is a priv­i­leg­ing of that which is to come, of that which is still becom­ing. Such a priv­i­leg­ing is not a refusal of inti­ma­cy. Indeed, Bersani and Phillips sug­gest that stranger inti­ma­cy, where we do not need to know the oth­er, but only to trust in the know­ing that will come, might be inti­ma­cy par excel­lence.

Notably, this inti­ma­cy turns on a shift in tem­po­ral empha­sis. Instead of a divulging of the past as a basis for inti­ma­cy, Bersani and Phillips sig­nal the neces­si­ty of a turn towards the future. Such a turn offers a way to under­stand the tem­po­ral­i­ty of stranger inti­ma­cy in Bouvier’s restau­rants. As I observe in Eat­ing Chi­nese, the small-town Chi­nese-Cana­di­an restau­rant has been sit­u­at­ed as a mark­er of a dis­ap­pear­ing form of rur­al life, or what Zele­ny refers to as “rur­al drain, urban claim” (103). I note that there is a nar­ra­tive of the “pre­ma­ture requiem” attached to these spaces. How­ev­er, I chal­lenge this nar­ra­tive: “it is pre­cise­ly at the moment when some­thing is declared to be out­dat­ed that the invest­ment in the dat­ing of things, their sit­u­at­ed­ness in his­to­ry, reveals itself” (Eat­ing Chi­nese 7). Cast­ing this chal­lenge with­in the frame of stranger inti­ma­cy allows us to under­stand the com­plex tem­po­ral­i­ty these restau­rants occu­py. They are not mark­ers of a dis­ap­pear­ing past. Yet they do seem to be, in Zeleny’s evoca­tive phras­ing, places “of past con­struc­tion” (105). Their past­ness is not the only way to locate their cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance; we can also grasp their inti­mate inva­sions with­in the frame of their futurity.

Even the lim­its of this inti­ma­cy indi­cate its pow­er. “Lan in Mr. Chin’s” strik­ing­ly illus­trates this lim­it and the pow­er of this inti­ma­cy. The mir­ror seems to give us almost nothing—Lan’s back, a closed door, the reflec­tion of the light on the wood pan­el­ing. “Lan in Mr. Chin’s” seems to be a pho­to­graph of enclo­sure and cap­ture. The mir­ror appears to offers only the sug­ges­tion of access to Lan, to what might beyond the door, to the space of the restau­rant itself. Yet it is this very evo­ca­tion of access and its denial that indi­cates the truth and pow­er of the recal­i­bra­tion of inti­ma­cy in Bouvier’s pho­tographs. In this pho­to­graph, there is a pre­cise echo of the glossi­ness I not­ed ear­li­er in “Ng’s Café” and “The Diana.” Find it in the reflec­tion of the light on the wood pan­el­ing. Find it on the sur­face of the counter behind Lan; the cor­ner of the door­frame; the baroque edges of the gilt mir­ror; the sheen of the bro­cade wall­pa­per; the curve of the brass sconce. Find it even on the col­lar of Lan’s shirt and the sharp angle of Lan’s cheek­bone. In these abun­dant reflec­tions, so lumi­nous in an image that is also enrobed in dark­ness, the view­er might see them­selves indi­rect­ly, askew, adja­cent to the inti­ma­cy on offer.

This adja­cen­cy recalls my argu­ment regard­ing the func­tion of the menus in small-town Chi­nese restau­rants. The restau­rants and their menus appear to offer some access to Chi­ne­se­ness, but ulti­mate­ly reveal more about the view­er and the con­sumer than they do about Chi­nese cul­ture. “Lan in Mr. Chin’s” is, in many ways, a corol­lary of my sug­ges­tion that the menus do not offer “authen­tic” Chi­ne­se­ness, but rather give back to Cana­di­ans a ver­sion of them­selves: “The lega­cy of the menu sug­gests that Chi­nese dias­po­ra sub­jects exploit the menu’s capac­i­ty for the repro­duc­tion of a cul­tur­al space in order to pro­duce an eth­nic­i­ty that… frus­trates the desire for authen­tic Chi­ne­se­ness” (Eat­ing Chi­nese 71). The menu, like the mir­ror in “Lan in Mr. Chin’s,” reveals much about desire for access to the real and the authen­tic as well as a desire for inti­ma­cy. Again, Bersani and Phillips’s con­cep­tion of stranger inti­ma­cy illu­mi­nates the ten­sion between know­ing and close­ness. If the desire for access to so-called authen­tic Chi­ne­se­ness seems to be a demand for dis­clo­sure (tell me what is real­ly Chi­nese), then the anx­i­eties around so-called “fake” Chi­nese food is a plea for famil­iar­i­ty (bring me clos­er to what is real­ly Chi­nese). Yet stranger inti­ma­cy offers a way around the impos­si­bil­i­ty of this demand (there is no “real” Chi­nese food or, to put it dif­fer­ent­ly, who has author­i­ty to say that egg foo yong is not real Chi­nese food?) and this plea for the com­forts of the famil­iar. Stranger inti­ma­cy reveals instead that the most real Chi­nese food, the most prox­i­mate expe­ri­ence of Chi­ne­se­ness, will unfold in the indi­rect and adja­cent such as those reflec­tions that glim­mer through­out “Lan in Mr. Chin’s.”

While the inti­mate may sug­gest an inte­ri­or­i­ty divorced from polit­i­cal engage­ment, stranger inti­ma­cy can be a polit­i­cal­ly enabling pos­si­bil­i­ty. This inti­ma­cy does not traf­fic in indi­vid­ual his­to­ries, but rather col­lec­tive ones that make the inva­sions of his­to­ry and mem­o­ry some­thing to be held in trust. Bouvier’s pho­tographs offer a way into liv­ing with dis­qui­et and the dis­junc­tures of his­to­ry. Thus, the assem­blage of the mate­ri­als and objects in  “Cof­fee at Mr. Chin’s” sig­nals the ways in which the unhome­ly moment can offer a point of entry, a way of under­stand­ing that we do not need to stave off the dis­qui­et­ing déjà vu. Instead, we can trans­form pri­vate ter­ror into a kind of pub­lic sanc­tu­ary. In Bersani and Phillips’ exam­ple, Isabel Archer real­izes in the flash of a moment at the Palaz­zo Roc­canera that her world is not quite right and she retreats as her world moves increas­ing­ly, insis­tent­ly inward. How­ev­er, tak­ing Bersani and Phillips seri­ous­ly allows for a reori­ent­ing of that moment that does not give in to the inex­ora­bil­i­ty of the inward turn. Stranger inti­ma­cy sug­gests that inti­mate inva­sions might become a resource for liv­ing in dis­place­ment. For Bersani and Phillips, deper­son­al­iz­ing the past demands reimag­in­ing it in order to craft an inti­ma­cy that is not based on any sin­gu­lar sto­ry. “Cof­fee at Mr. Chin’s” might be eas­i­ly read as a cel­e­bra­tion of hybrid­i­ty and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. The chi­na teapot lid is jaun­ti­ly perched on the pitch­ers of cof­fee at the “Bunn-o-mat­ic” warmer sta­tion. In the back­ground, the cof­fee sta­tion is flanked by a repur­posed Chi­nese moon­cake tin and a box of Red Rose tea, that great com­mod­i­ty of British impe­r­i­al his­to­ries. How­ev­er, it is also an image that recal­i­brates inti­ma­cy by deper­son­al­iz­ing it. These objects, and the his­to­ries that they sig­nal, belong to every­one and to no one. They offer a pow­er­ful, col­lec­tive form of uncan­ny inhab­i­ta­tion. No mat­ter which side of the swing­ing kitchen door you occu­py, there is some kind of a déjà vu here for you.

Works Cited

Bersani, Leo and Adam Phillips. Inti­ma­cies. Chica­go: U of Chica­go P, 2008.

Bha­ba, Homi. The Loca­tion of Cul­ture. Lon­don and New York: Rout­ledge, 1993.

Camp­bell, Craig. “The Rur­al Scene.” Out West. Ed. Kyler Zele­ny. Lon­don: The Vel­vet Cell, 2014. 91-96.

Cho, Lily. “Inti­ma­cy Among Strangers: Antic­i­pat­ing Cit­i­zen­ship in Chi­nese Head Tax Pho­tographs.” Inter­ven­tions 15.1 (2013): 10-23.

--- . Eat­ing Chi­nese: Cul­ture on the Menu in Small Town Cana­da. Toron­to: U of Toron­to P, 2010.

Lowe, Lisa. Inti­ma­cies of Four Con­ti­nents. Durham and Lon­don: Duke UP, 2015.

Shah, Nyan. Stranger Inti­ma­cy: Con­test­ing Race, Sex­u­al­i­ty, and the Law in the North Amer­i­can West. Oak­land, CA: U of Cal­i­for­nia P, 2011.

Zele­ny, Kyler. Out West. Lon­don: The Vel­vet Cell, 2014.


[1] Nyan Shah explores this con­cept in Stranger Inti­ma­cy: Con­test­ing Race, Sex­u­al­i­ty, and the Law in the North Amer­i­can West as do I in my arti­cle “Inti­ma­cy Among Strangers: Antic­i­pat­ing Cit­i­zen­ship in Chi­nese Head Tax Photographs.”