Playing the Games: Diasporic Identity, Athletic Entrepreneurialism, and Elodie Li Yuk Lo's Journey to the Olympics.

Polovina, Yuka J.
American Studies
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This dissertation is a life writing project that examines the international career of Elodie Nioun Chin Li Yuk Lo—a Chinese Mauritian Canadian immigrant who represented a small African nation, Mauritius, at the 2012 Olympics in beach volleyball. Elodie’s journey to the Games serves as a window into how diasporic athletes negotiate their identities in international competitions organized around singular conceptions of citizenship and nation. Elodie’s personal reflections on her family's complex migratory experience and her own athletic career lie at the heart of this project—a co-constructed story that blurs the boundaries of life writing genres and individual authorship. It opens with Elodie’s ancestral ties to Mauritius, positioning Africa and the Chinese diaspora at the center of a historical trajectory spanning slavery to indenture, colony to nationstate, and colonial subjects to independent citizens, in which cultural change was intimately related to political and familial transformation. The family’s identification as migrants—from China to Mauritius in the nineteenth century, and from Mauritius to Canada in the latetwentieth— illustrates how cultural identity evolves through an ongoing diasporic experience. In Canada, where Elodie found herself both insider and outsider in a predominantly Cantonese-speaking immigrant community, volleyball represented a complex nexus of opportunity and Othering. Elodie’s success as an indoor volleyball player in Canada demonstrate how her investment in sport both entangled and served her as a racial minority and recent immigrant. After university, Elodie switched to beach volleyball and entered international competition through diversity policies intended to stimulate global participation. But as a diversity entrant to the Games, the industry reduced Elodie to an actor in an international spectacle of nations that embodied an unequal globalized world through corporate consumption. Indeed, the ideals of sport promoted by the Olympics were rife with paradox: a harmonious global community rooted in competitive nationalisms, cohesive national identities based on fictions of multicultural harmony, and a "meritocracy" in the interest of global marketing. This dissertation thus provides an intimate, diasporic, multiethnic perspective on international sport—a perspective that highlights the issues inherent in the nation-based structure of the Olympics that conflates ethnicity, nation, and culture.
Elodie Li Yuk Lo, Olympics, Beach Volleyball, Diasporic Athletes, Life Writing, Athletic Entrepreneurialism
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