Constructed Fantasy

When I was young, like the age 6 or 7, I could never image me leaving my hometown and went to live somewhere I was totally unfamiliar with. I remember the first few days after I transferred to a private high school from China to US, I cried from the dorm’s bathroom to my bedroom. I remembered I couldn’t call my mom most of the time because we had the time difference  across the globe. At that moment, I thought I lost my family FOREVER. Thank God for the rapid development of technologies! we could FaceTime and talk through Skype easily these days.



It reminds me of a phenomenon that happens regularly in the animal world –“migration”.  Deers, penguins, fish, and crabs all move from one location to another at certain moment, but they will all go back to where they are from at the end. But to people who know they will not be back once when they immigrated from their home to a place totally they are  unfamiliar with. I thought a lot when I studied in NY:

“Oh should I try to change myself in order to be accepted by the community?”
“No, I miss my old community and I will live with my memories and old habits.”

Well, if I couldn’t go back to the place where I originally from, I will just create a new one that looks similar ( accordiong to my memory ofc).

Then,thinking about the Street Vendors in Chinatown… what and how they are different from the street vendors in the rest of the NYC. I see a tree-structured relationship among Affect, Fantasy, and Cultural Heritage from the intimate differences among the vendors in Ctown and those in the rest of NYC and I will explain more in the future.

I will share you with one of my guilty pleasures:  everytime when I go to Chinatown I will go to a small pastry store to purchase “Pineapple Bun”that costs 1.2 USD each( It used to cost less than one dollar, but the price rose up after the store renovation). The bread was not whole wheat and not marked as a healthy choice; I like it simply because it reminds me of my childhood. For me, everytime when I eat the bread, the smell, the shape, the appearance’s texture, and the taste make me think of all some happy childhood memories. Indeed, culture and identity are bonded with individuals. Culture is where people find their feeling of belonging.

And all that has to do with affect.

Affect is different from feeling and emotion; according to Brenna affect is like an energy that transmit among people. Individuals sense affect by all of their five senses and affect can be transmitted both by human and non human agencies.

Thus, in my media ecology project, I will focus mainly on the street vendors in Chinatown Manhattan who are selling fruits and vegetables and calligraphies. Since they are a part of the Chinese cultural heritage who communicate in Chinatown not only to Chinese immigrants but also to people from all around the world, I am very interested in discovering the media and culture effects they have in both Chinatown area and NYC in general.

Fantasy, Affect, and the Street Vendors

Be careful of using the word “Fantasy” with Affect. Brenna endows me with a deeper understanding of how to look at the street vendors in Chinatown. During a conversation with Marcia at one afternoon, she said, “You see, not only Chinatown has the street vendors, those kind of vendors are in everywhere in NYC.” But my instinct and feeling troubled me a lot: there is definitely something different for those street vendors in Chinatown… and Brenna helps me to see the difference.

Chinese street vendors are not just selling foods, they are fabricating an Old Chinese fantasy in Chinatown that every Chinese who share the similar cultural memories will react to their affects.

Here is a quote from Brenna’s text,

The idea that containment is constructed, rather than given, is at odds with Freud’s own starting point: belief that the individual psyche is the origin of the drives and affects. However, while my argument is a critique of psychoanalysis in this regard…Fantasy, in psychoanalytic thinking, is a mental activity that allows us to alter an unpleasant reality by making it into something more pleasurable (12).

How excited it was when I discovered the reason that I have to go to the store to purchase “Pineapple bread” every time when I go to Chinatown: because I am receiving their affects and participating in constructing the affects.

Affect is exclusive and penetrable. Chinatown is a container of all the affects and fantasy that can be understood only by individuals with certain cultural backgrounds.

Tree Network Affect

In “A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia”, Gilles Deleuze Félix Guattari used an introspective metaphor, “the book imitates the world, as art imitates nature: by procedures specific to it that accomplish what nature cannot or can no longer do (5).” Here he claims that a book is part of the reflection, a shadow, and a medium that de-territorializes of the world. Yet there is no THE book that serves as the function; indeed, every book is no different. They connect and reflect to each other. The world re-territorializes the books, and through the re-territorialization it de-territorializes itself.

Lol, I am not trying to be academic. Inspiring by Deleuze I can see Chinatown formed a significant atmosphere of Affect that helps them to communicate with different communities. It is like an identity of their own; and the design and structures of the street reinforce their Affect, signaling to individuals and to let them react accordingly.


I have a dream, I want to discover, frame, and deliver the cultural heritage Chinatown created to NYC and let people understand and appreciate the affect. I want people who only live in Chinatown feel more belonging to the rest of the NYC region. I want to write about Chinatown and make it more sincere and attractable to the public and the government is finally gonna fund to renovate the region.

All of my thoughts are inspired by one bite of the Pineapple bread from the grocery store.

With love,


~ by Lillian ZW Liao on October 2, 2016.