March 30, 2016

Queer Asia and Homonationalism

Panel organized for the Association for Asian Studies in Asia conference held at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, this June!


Queer Asia and Homonationalism
 

Since Dennis Altman’s 1997 formulation of “global queering,” the question of the effect of US-led neoliberalism and sexual exceptionalism (e.g., same-sex marriage discourse) upon global gender and sexual practices has been hotly debated. Particularly, Jasbir Puar’s 2007 concept of “homonationalism” that outlines the teleological arc of freedom, including for gender and sexual minorities, and that intersects with neoliberalism and militarization, has seen widespread discussion. Homonationalism is both useful, but also not, for theorizing queer practices and politics in Asia. By engaging in a regional conversation, yet one that still attends to the local/global binary, we hope to continue the complex task of provincializing western queer studies without unduly self-/orientalizing or reterritorializing Asian queer spaces. Shana Ye thinks through the problems of imagining post-socialist “queer China” as both “follower” and/or as “other” for western queer practices and queer studies. Chris Tan examines a lack of applicability of homonationalism for Singaporean queer politics through an investigation of the event called “Pink Dot.” Lin Song reads a queer 2015 Chinese internet talk show episode featuring Taiwanese host Kevin Tsai that went viral on the mainland, and considers how, despite local homonationalist intentions, regional reception deconstructs national imaginaries. Alan Williams investigates the changing gendered logics of the US/Japan relationship with the 1990s rise of homonationalism and now Japanese remilitarization, suggesting that the US and Japan are perhaps entering a “same-sex marriage.”

DISCUSSANT

John Treat (Yale University)


 

PANELISTS

Shana Ye (University of Minnesota)

The Promise of Chinese Ku’er: Affect and Transnational Queer Praxis 

Chinese queer sexuality has been articulated in pop culture, activism and academia as embodying a promise for transformation -- on the one hand, the notion of sexual progress and individual sexual rights is placed as central to transform China from a socialist totalitarian state to a democratic neoliberal world power; on the other hand, vernacular queer practices are often utilized as examples par excellence to counter Euro-American queer studies and politics. Such desires, investments and attachments to the making of “Queer China” reflect intertwined discourses about modernity, time and difference, and simultaneously challenge and reinforce the asymmetrical transnational power structure and queer studies’ imperialist, colonialist and hierarchical assumptions. This paper examines the knowledge production of queerness in relation to the ambivalence of the post-socialist condition. Contrary to the normative and nationalist imagination of China as a future world power, “Queer China” embodies “hopelessness,” which ironically reflects the condition of the marginalized and fosters the transnational system of inequality, privilege and western-centrism. Comparing how “Queer China(s)” are produced differently in various locales, this paper pushes transnational queer scholarship to examine its own position in academic and cultural production.


Chris K. K. Tan (Shandong University)

Pink Dot: Cultural Citizenship in Gay Singapore

Once considered the Asian country least likely to have any positive LGBT developments (Leong 1997), Singapore has witnessed a number of such advances in the last decade. In my presentation, I critically examine a failed gay pride parade, together with “Pink Dot,” an immensely successful rally for the freedom to love. I have two goals. Firstly, I invoke the idea of cultural citizenship (Ong 1996, Rosaldo 1994) as I ethnographically investigate the efforts that queer Singaporeans make to overcome their national estrangement, particularly through “Pink Dot.” These efforts are essential to a better understanding of what it means to be Singaporean. Secondly, rather than wanting to remain socially marginal and critical of the norm, queers actually express their desire for national inclusion through Pink Dot. Yet, I argue that it would be erroneous to read this desire as “homonationalism.” Ritchie (2015) reminds us that homonationalism remains at its core an idea rooted in contemporary western racial politics, but the extent to which these politics overlay onto Singapore is questionable. Pink Dot also provides a fertile example that counters the often conventional view within queer studies that queers should always resist the heteronorm.


Lin Song (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) 

Reimagining Homonationalism across China and Taiwan

In 2015, an online video clip featuring the Taiwanese host Kevin Tsai’s impassioned speech about coming out went viral in Mainland China. The clip is excerpted from an episode of the Mainland Internet talk show Qipa Shuo (literally “weirdo talks”) on whether one should come out to his/her parents. After stimulating animated discussions, the episode disappeared from the Internet, rumored to be banned by broadcasting authorities. As a rare case of explicit and wide-range discussion of homosexuality in China, the incident epitomizes the complex negotiations in the formation of a homonational moment at the intersection of a state-promoted national identity and powerful Chinese kinship ideology. In a sense, the incident is reminiscent of the screening of The Wedding Banquet in 1993 Taiwan, that some interpret as symptomatic of fostering homonationalism through updated, postmodern patriarchy. Juxtaposing the two texts, I observe in their local homonationalist tactics a rooted transnationalism that is coupled with the queering of kinship. The vital importance of the Mainland character in the Taiwanese film and the Taiwanese celebrity in the Chinese talk show in forming a queer narrative, I argue, reflects a deterritorialized sexual politics transgressing constructed national imaginaries. Meanwhile, the reconfiguration of Chinese kinship in the two texts effects a queering of kinship that challenges western liberationist discourse by conceptualizing queerness within rather than outside the structures of kinship. These rooted transnational queer knowledges, I contend, contribute to a reimagining of sexual politics and homonationalism.


Alan Williams (University of Washington) 

U.S./JapanThe Transpacific Partnership is a Same-sex Marriage

 It is sometimes said that the Pacific community is like a marriage: the United States is the father, Japan is the mother, and several children have been midwifed by Australia (Tadiar 1993). This paper updates the metaphor to a “same-sex marriage,” taking into account the following: (1) sexual and gendered minorities are increasingly welcomed into nation-states in both marriages and militaries along a teleological narrative of “freedom” (homonationalism), (2) the Obama and Abe administrations have aimed to move Japan away from postwar pacifism (masculinized violence), and (3) the transpacific partnership hopes to better strengthen the Pacific “family” in rivalry with China and Russia, and to ward off potential waywardness or “queerness” of the tiger cubs (US-led neoliberalism). I will discuss how this Japanese “sex-change” highlights both old and new gendered logics of empire for a post-Cold War world, and speak to the roles the parents and imagined “children” (e.g, South Korea, the Philippines) have played in the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.

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