Media Representations of Magic, Witchcraft, and Mythology Through the Lens of Asian/Asian Diasporic Identities

This panel explores the perspectives of three academic scholars with a critical focus on contemporary representations of Asian identities within visual media, while simultaneously working at the intersections of race, queerness, gender and nationality. These texts include Disney’s Mulan (2020), television programming in South Asia, and a featured art piece from the 2021 Southeast Asia Queer Cultural Festival — all of which touch on how non-conforming practices of magic, witchcraft, and mythology can disrupt patriarchal social systems.

PhD student Saira Chhibber researches how contemporary televisual cultures interact with gender and national identities within Canadian and South Asian media, and how the figure of the churail plays into pro-feminist modes of identification.

A professor at Michigan State University, Sheng-mei Ma specializes in Asian American/diasporic identities and East-West comparative studies. He questions the Western influences in Mulan and dissects the portrayal of the witch as a product of Anglo-European perceptions of sorcery and magic.

Ali Na, an Assistant Professor at Queen’s University, studies how digital media performances define and resist social perceptions of Asian/ Asian diasporic identities. Her critical study of "Diwata: Queering Pre-Colonial Philippine Mythology" by Renz Y Botero, Natu Xantino and Candy Darling, disrupts our understanding of unruly bodies through Filipinx tactics of decolonization, and addresses the pieces of art as a site of socio-political resistance.


Saira Chhibber, “Churails”

Saira Chhibber is a PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies program at Queen’s University and is currently an artist in residence at the ADA-DADA Residency. Her current research focuses on gender, diaspora, national identities and the intersections of horror and ethnicity in popular media.

Sheng-mei Ma, “Eastern Witch from the West: Xianniang in Niki Caro’s Mulan“

Sheng-mei Ma is Professor of English at Michigan State University in Michigan, USA, specializing in Asian Diaspora and East-West comparative studies. He is the author of ten books: On East-West (2021); Off-White (2019); Sinophone-Anglophone Cultural Duet (2017); The Last Isle (2015); Alienglish (2014); Asian Diaspora and East-West Modernity (2012); Diaspora Literature and Visual Culture (2011); East-West Montage (2007); The Deathly Embrace (2000); and Immigrant Subjectivities in Asian American and Asian Diaspora Literatures (1998). He is the co-editor of four books, including Transnational Narratives in Englishes of Exile (2018), and the author of a critical memoir Immigrant Horse’s Mouth: Journey to the West by Bearing East (2022) as well as a collection of poetry in Chinese.

Ali Na, "Visualizing Queer Re-animation: Exploring Pre-Colonial Philippine Mythologies and Powers"

Ali Na is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Queen’s University. She works at the intersections of race, queer, and feminist studies. Her current book project, titled Trans Medial Performance: Affirming Asian/American Femininity Otherwise examines the political possibilities of contemporary media performances by situating them in transnational cultural histories.

Image: Renz Y Botero, Natu Xantino and Candy Darling
Image: Renz Y Botero, Natu Xantino and Candy Darling