The Unfamiliar Familiar

I don’t have a place I call home. I am going into my fourth year at NYU and I would still describe New York City as an unfamiliar familiar place. I’ve lived in China most of my life so the media ecology surrounding Chinese immigrants in New York City fascinates me specifically because of the contrast I see with the Chinese people back home. I plan to find a few people or a specific location so that I can observe and gain insight about the history of Chinese immigrants in Flushing or Chinatown (Manhattan) from a local perspective. I want to understand the economical hardships and limits to job-hunting, starting a business, education, etc. with these Chinese immigrants. According to the Asian American Federation of New York Census Information Center, 60% of adults have no attained a high school diploma.


After reading Brennan’s article, I understand the definition of affect and how it connects to my media ecology project. It is more than just feelings, which are related to our senses. It is the passion or emotion contained after a judgment. It cannot be described in one adjective. In the case of my ecology project, it is what I feel after having been through and interacted with my ecology.

Theresa Brennan talks about the transmission of affect especially when we are communicating with people. Its scary to think how much control the people have on you, because we always think that we have full control of our own thoughts – but thats obviously not the case. Would I still feel the same today if I hadn’t had that 30 minute conversation with my roommate this morning? I guess we will never know.

Brennan goes on to talk about a characteristic of affect, “the content one person gives to the affect of anger or depression or anxiety may be different from the content given to the same affect by another” (Brennan 6). This means that even if I am trying to interpret and understand another persons affect, the linguistic, visual, and sensory thoughts I attach to my own affect remain my own: “They remain the product of the particular historical conjunction of words and experiences I represent” (Brennan 6). We are constantly influenced the environment around us. Even in my time here at NYU, I often have to step into the shoes of other cultures and spend a considerable amount of time to grasp a their worldview. When we first meet someone of a different culture, a lot of feelings make up our behavior, but with more understanding, communication and information intake, we shift those feelings to judgments. This, I see as affect. Our biological make up may be one thing that initially make up our perceptions, but we are also affected by our experiences, judgments, and the affects we have.

Both Brennan and Bennett talk about our “original stuff”. Bennett dives into what we are composed of and uses the term “thing-power”. Like Brennan, she acknowledges the influences of others, because change isn’t possible without interacting with other people. Bennett says, “Vital materiality can never really be thrown “away”, for it continues its activities even as a discarded or wanted commodity” (Bennett 6). We are made up of little influences or “stuff” we get from other people. I am not who I am today without all the experiences we had. For example, I would not have felt like such a Third Cultured Kid (Theres a diagram at the moment in case you’ve never heard of the term) without having an american education in China. If I had went to a local school maybe I’d call China home, but for now I won’t think about what-ifs.



(When I feel like I don’t have a culture I truly belong to)

I think Brennan gives a point that I should set my mind to when I start my project: “It is not to be taken for granted precisely because of the artificiality of the distinction between the individual and the environment at the level of physical and biological exchange” (Brennan 8). Through the physical and biological exchange with Chinese immigrants, I will be able to appreciate the environmental factors and the Brennan’s definition of the transmission of affect with different groups of people.

Writing this all down excites me even more about my ecology project because I think I would be able to also dive into the psychology of affect. What can I grasp through this experience and how would it alter my judgments and emotions about the world through interacting with low income Chinese immigrants.

– Ling (Christina) Ho

Works Cited

Bennett, Jane. “Preface.” Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke UP, 2010.vii-xix. Print.

Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004. Print.


~ by christinahohk on September 19, 2016.

One Response to “The Unfamiliar Familiar”

  1. I think your post is best “learning”. You have an interesting and unique perspective that I think could really shed light on this divide that you’ve experienced. It is interesting that the “same” culture for you is so different here than it is at home. I think of New York as unfamiliar and familiar as well, but for very different reasons and I think if you really explored and tried to hone in on what exactly the major differences are, this could provide for a very thought provoking ecology. -Anna

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